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What have you been doing to get farm ready?
Well firstly Hello, it is Sharon here (the wife part of our membership) and l am going to attempt to do my best to try and give you an overall idea of what we have been doing to get farm ready and l apologize in advance if l happen to get a bit side tracked along the way as l also love to write! We were both born and breed into farming, different types of farming but still farming so l guess we have both been working towards getting ready for Farm ownership all our lives.
Rick was born onto a Sheep and Wheat farm near Echuca in Northern Victoria which his parents still own and operate to this day and l was born onto a Dairy Farm in Poowong, South Gippsland, Victoria which my Brother sold 4 years ago.
Rick grew up doing a wide range of farming jobs, learning from his father and grandfather. Sheep and cattle stock work, mustering, drafting, marking lambs, vaccinating and crutching sheep, operating farm machinery, including tractors, headers and hay equipment. Also general repairs and maintenance to farm equipment, fencing and assisting with Irrigation, all before he even left school at the end of Year 10. To this day he still helps out his Dad when needed, rousing in the shearing shed for him or helping him muster, crutch sheep or mark lambs. I believe all these tasks Rick has done over the years, his willingness and ability to undertake all kinds of farm work for his family has helped prepare him for his own future, being farm ready for himself.
All Rick ever wanted to do was be a farmer but at the age of 16 he was encouraged by his parents to go and seek an apprenticeship to gain some real experience outside the farm gate, so at the end of Year 10 he was recommended by his motor mechanics teacher at High school to a local Case I.H dealership as a real goer and a good upcoming mechanic. 4 years later by the age of 20 with a whole lot of skill and knowledge about farm machinery under his belt, Rick became a fully qualified Diesel Mechanic at Echuca C.I.H dealership where he then continued to stay on for another 3 years full time before resigning to travel around Australia with me. This 7 years of full time mechanic work gave Rick a huge amount of knowledge about fixing all things farming and has been a great foundation towards now being farm ready.
I grew up milking cows, feeding calves and any other physical farm work that l was capable of from the day l was old enough to be of any help. Both my parents worked extremely hard 7 days a week, milking the cows twice a day, my father was also often off farm doing truck jobs carting hay or grain to make ends meet so myself and all my siblings were often in the dairy beside Mum helping to milk the cows and get things done around the farm. Silage and Hay season were always my favorite times of the year though when we would get to help out with the tractor work out in the paddock raking or stacking the round bales. I believe every aspect of my upbringing brings me to a real genuine hands on understanding of what farming is all about, the good times and the bad and has prepared me to be mentally farm ready for our own farming future.
At the end of Year 12 l was employed full time at Safeway in Warragul, Victoria and happily completed any role that was asked of me during my 4 years there. I then transferred up to Safeway in Echuca after l meet Rick and we fell in love in 1998. When we first meet we both expressed our keen desire to travel Australia, working and travelling our way around so after 3 busy years of working lots to save save save, we finally headed off in 2001. We had custom built our own camper with the help of Ricks Dad and we set of on our adventure, not really knowing where we were going or for how long we would be gone.
Over the next 5 or so years we worked and traveled, traveled and worked. We began our ‘working’ part of our travelling journey at Prairie Downs Station, a cattle Station south of Newman in the Pilbara, W.A in 2008. Rick was originally employed as a Station Hand and Sharon as a Cook (and Jillaroo when she could convince them to let her out of the kitchen to help muster) We did 2 mustering seasons there (2001 and 2002) and this was the place where we can honestly say this is where we both really fell in love with farming and the lifestyle that it gave us and we knew that that was how we wanted to raise our kids. Rick learnt many more things during this time at Prairie Downs Station that has helped him to be more farm ready, from general repairs and maintenance to all kinds of Station plant consisting of a grader, CAT FEL backhoe, Scania and Volvo prime movers, Ford truck, generators, various Toyota vehicles and Suzuki 4WD’s to truck driving, cattle husbandry, cattle mustering and stockyard work, welding, fencing, extending and maintaining of cattle yards, checking and repairing of Windmills, carting water, station maintenance and household maintenance. You literally have to be a jack of all trades out there in the bush and there is not much that Rick can’t turn his hand too and if he doesn’t know how to do something, he asks around and does his best to figure it out as best he can.
My responsibilities at Prairie Downs Station l believe were also preparing me to be farm ready as l was preparing and cooking for up to 14 people at anyone time, cleaning all living areas, bathrooms, laundry and workers quarters, gardening, fortnightly trips to town to stock up on groceries and of course what l loved the most, mustering and yard work as required.
We worked in a few other roles as we traveled around Australia, in 2003 / 2004 we worked on Train 4, LPG gas plant in Karratha W.A. Rick as Site serviceman / Mechanic and l was a Receptionist / HR Assistant. Rick was responsible for maintaining and coordinating repairs to all the following equipment: buses, compressors, generators, forklifts and light trucks that were either owned or leased by AMJV on and off site and he also had to Re-fuel all the equipment on site. This was also his first real role where he had employees working with him and he really enjoyed this role, again preparing him for the future which may foresee having to employee staff at different times to work alongside with us.
In 1999 before travelling l completed a certificate 2 in Business / office administration and this role as Receptionist / HR assistant was the first real position where l got to use my certificate. I had many hats in this role and loved every minute of it, from general administrative duties, to booking flights, transport and accommodation for all of our employees flying in and out on R & R, to ordering safety clothing for up to 600 of people, there was always something different going on and it was a great overall experience. Following completion of this position, l then moved onto a position as Office Administrator / Advertising consultant before having our 1st child, Ryan. This role was also a great experience for me where l learnt even more advance skills like payroll, weekly staff rosters, banking and assisting in structuring and applying an advertising campaign. I believe both of these administration roles have given me a great background in to being hopefully able to efficiently handle all the book work that will be required to be farm ready.
After the above role in Karratha at the LPG gas plant we then moved to South Gippsland in Victoria with the intention of beginning a family together. Rick gained employment as a Mechanic at the Holden Proving ground in Lang Lang, Victoria.
After being at Holden for 2 years Rick learned that he had successfully gained employment with Rio Tinto at their mine site in Tom Price, back in Western Australia as a maintainer / mechanic. We headed off with a then 22 month old (Ryan) and a 10 week old (Sam) to begin our new life working in the mines. While this role was a great step up for Rick towards been farm ready, having the responsibility of having employees working under his guidance, being promoted quickly to team leader not long after he arrived and often being left to relief supervise, we quickly realized within 12 months that we didn't like the town lifestyle and missed being on the land terribly and we decided that mining life was just not our cup of tea. We decided that while we were all the way over there again in W.A we reached out to see if Prairie Downs Station had any work for us to come back to at the Station and luckily for us they did, so we made the move back out to Prairie Downs where it had all began all those years ago when we were travelling around Australia but this time we had 2 children with us and a 3rd due any day. Also this time we returned as Overseers as they had recently brought another 2 cattle stations down south. The responsibility of basically running the station on our own under the mostly absent guidance of the owner was again another great move towards us being farm ready.
After 12 months at Prairie Downs Station things became quite dry and we could see things were getting quite tough financially for the owners so we decided to make life easier for the family we were working for and leave before it got all too hard. We moved back to South Gippsland in Victoria and Rick successfully gained Full time employment as a Machinery operator for Hills Earth moving as well as subcontracting for himself in his spare time. While subcontracting for himself, Rick again undertook many different tasks over the years, all tasks that was helping him work towards getting himself farm ready. Including but not limited to mechanical repairs to a wide range of equipment, servicing and repairing of Diesel tractors and trucks, driving of heavy combination vehicles on short and long distances, general farm hand duties, Cattle stock work, mustering, drafting and drenching of cattle, feeding of livestock, Centre Pivot Irrigator – relocation and repairs, machinery operation of general farm equipment, cropping, hay and silage harvesting, welding, repairs, maintenance and building of fences and cattle yards and office work, invoicing, gst, etc.
During his 2 years working with Hills Earthmoving Rick learnt how to operate different equipment such as a Bulldozer, grader, bobcat and excavator, plus earth moving tip truck driving and repairing and servicing all of their equipment.
Rick then decided that he would try his hand as a livestock carrier, this was a big decision for him to leave a solid and stable job at Hills Earthmoving but he was desperate to get back into the farming side of things but living in South Gippsland in Victoria at the time, beef / sheep farms are few and far between down there (it’s very much a dairy farming area) so the decision was made to give it a go with a mate that owned a livestock carrying business. This was probably Rick’s most short lived position, lasting only 7 months. Rick loved the actual work, carting stock around but it was very hard on myself and our very young family at the time (Ryan 6, Sam 4, Rebecca 2 and another newborn, little Jesse) and in the end it all became too much so the decision was made more for the sake of us left at home that he would cease that role and just continue to work full time subcontracting for himself instead of juggling the two roles.
We then moved back up to Northern Victoria to Lockington. Another mate we know owns a Cropping, Sheep and Dairy Farm with his parents so Rick was employed by them for over 4 years. Rick was heavily involved in the fixing of all the on farm equipment as well as overseeing the cropping side of the enterprise, making decisions daily and working closely with the agronomist to work out what needs to be done next in regards to the crops, again another great step forward towards being farm ready. They use to carry approx. 2000 sheep which Rick also had a fair bit to do with and we were required to do our fair share of weekend milking. l personally use to milk a couple of times a week to do my bit and during Hay season l would also help out as required, raking or stacking bales in the paddock. I also hand reared many bull calves from birth while we lived there that l use to purchase from a neighboring farm which l loved being involved with.
Just over 18 months ago we decided to give the kids a bit of an adventure and we spent just under 12 months on a Cattle Station in the Kimberley's W.A. It was something that we had always talked about doing again but this time with the kids and we are pleased that we did it before they all got any older. It was an experience that we will all remember for years to come! Rick was employed as the Overseer / Boreman and was in control of over 70 watering points on a million acre property, it was an intense but also a very rewarding experience.
We moved back to Lockington July last year (2019) and we are all very happy to be back in Northern Victoria again. Rick is working for Jenharwill Baling, quite a large scaled operation that does cropping and sheep out the back of Elmore as a general Jack of all trades and l am a Kindergarten Assistant at the Elmore Kindergarten. Rick actually broke his leg late January but he is recovering really well and it wont be long until he will be back to full strength again! The kids are growing up fast, Ryan is 14 now and in Year 8 at Echuca College, Sam is 12 and in Grade 6, Rebecca is 11 and in Grade 5 and little Jesse is nearly 9 and in Grade 3, all at Lockington Consolidated Primary School. The kids absolute love going to work with Rick on the farm (its a struggle to get a couple to school most days!) and they are all actually at an age where they are really quite helpful on the farm which is Awesome for us!
So l guess the question what have we been doing to get farm ready is really quite extensive when you put it all down in writing, between the 2 of us we believe we can service and repair just about anything mechanically that is broken, repair, maintain and build any fences or cattle yards that need doing, operate just about any equipment that is available on the market to buy, muster stock and work them through the yards quietly and effectively, Rick can drive a B double truck to deliver the livestock to market or the Hay or grain to the depot (I only have my medium ridge truck license at this stage so l can do it just in a littler truck) complete office work to keep up to date with monthly bills / banking and all other office requirements, maintain and repair a household and garden, successfully communicate and manage staff safely and responsibly and even provide extra free labor with 4 handy kids at the right age!
Mostly importantly though, we bring with us positive mindsets and we want to successfully achieve all our dreams and goals. We are fortunate enough to have a been there and done that attitude towards things like chasing the money in the mines, knowing deep down that we have done lots of things in the past and this one thing, farm ownership has always been our dream goal and to achieve that will be the best day ever (Ok up there on a par with the day that we got married and the birth of all of 4 kids anyway!)
One thing we definitely don’t proclaim though is that we know it all, we know that there are many more things that we still need to improve on, yes office work will probably be one of them but hey at least lm being honest, l am the kind of girl who loves being outside and if there is a job that needs doing outside the house yard l am more than happy to help do it but in saying all that l am also a realist and l completely understand the importance of the paper work trail and how it too needs to be done and done probably to run a great successful business.
Rick also acknowledges that he needs guidance and training with the breeding side of livestock (whether it be Sheep or Cattle) but he also knows that by seeking out the experts in these fields and asking for advice and guidance that you can learn anything that you need to know and can become even more knowledgeable and successful if you allow yourself to be. Rick would also love to add a pilot’s license to his list of abilities at some stage in the future as it has been another long life dream of his!
Some days we do have our doubts and question ourselves are we really farm ready enough but then we have Amazing days were we stumble across Cultivate farms on Facebook and make the effort to get ourselves down to the Elmore Field Days to meet Sam himself and after a little chat with him we restore our belief in ourselves and know that we really are farm ready.
In all honesty, l don’t know if anyone will ever be READY for everything that life may throw at them but what we do know is that we have a dream and to know that our dream is so much closer to a reality now thanks to Cultivate farms then we say Yes we are farm ready, yes we are ready for the commitment and hard work that it will take to be a successful farmers, yes we are ready to always remain open minded, growing and learning daily and striving to be more than we currently are. We are so lucky to have each other and we have our 4 beautiful children and their support 110%, one of our sons wants to be just like Dad, to be able to live out his dream of running his own farm and that right there in itself is more than enough to know that we are 110% doing the right thing.
Why are you passionate about farming?
It’s just in our blood, we were both just fortunate enough to be born with a love for farming. When we traveled and did our first ever stint on a cattle station in Western Australia together we knew right there and then that that was the lifestyle that we wanted to raise our own children in and since then we have been working our way towards that very dream. They say Love what you do and you will never feel like you will work a day in your life and it is 100% true, we absolutely love what we do and it never feels like ‘work’ when we are on the farm. On and off for years we felt like we were on a spin cycle in a washing machine when we weren’t working on a farm and for the last nearly 6 years since we have been back farming we feel like we are home again. We have been given a gift, the gift of finding our dream lifestyle and that is farming, now we just need to find a Farm that we can work together with someone to call our own!
Best days of being a farmer:
Our dream farm has great quality, well breed Cattle and / or Sheep and if size and conditions permit we could also possibly do Hay and cropping.
Whether we are lucky enough to obtain our dream farm by working closely with retiring farmers or investors we would love to be in or around the Hay, Booligal or Deniliquin area in NSW or the Echuca, Lockington area in Northern Victoria.
What our best day looks like is literally just farming, as long as its a day out on the farm its the best day ever! Getting out and checking the livestock, the crops, the fences, making sure there is enough water for everyone and everything, watching the Sunrise and the Sunset, the list could just go on and on because as we mentioned earlier, when you Love what you do you never feel like you work a day in your life and this is 100% true for us when we are on the farm just doing what needs to be done, not sweating the small stuff and enjoying every single moment of what we are doing when we are doing it!