EMMA TURNER, 22 is a sixth generation wool grower who grew up on Stanbridge Station, 100km south of the tiny town of Ivanhoe in western NSW. Emma is a 'Young Farming Champion' and has spent her life surrounded by agriculture. She has taken to social media to share her love of working on the land with others to encourage others to pursue a career in the industry.
Tom Dunn: How should we imagine Emma on a typical day at Stanbridge?
Emma Turner: Depends on the day really and what time of year we are talking about! Some periods are a lot busier, more exciting and enjoyable than others. But currently in Febuary it’s all about water! I am on water run duty at the moment over summer which really involves going out on the motorbike and cleaning every trough, checking every tank and dam but also running an eye over the stock as I go. It’s all about attention to detail and noticing changes in condition over the joining period, looking for flystrike and more importantly ensuring that the pipelines are all working properly. On the days over 40 we try and check things every day as well just because of the extra strain the heat puts on keeping water up to the stock. Plus just all the little odd tidy up jobs like straining wires, spraying weeds and fixing things. And then at the end of a work day usually sitting down and attempting a bit of study to keep on top of summer university units.
TD: Your family roots in farming go back to 1844 when your English relatives took up farming as a profession. Was being involved in agriculture something that always felt natural?
ET: I suppose so, though when I was a lot younger I don’t think I was as interested in agriculture as a career as I am now. I think I fully realised how attached and invested I am to agriculture when I left for boarding school. I just felt so empty being away from the space and outdoors – until I realised I could mix education and agriculture and hence studied an agricultural degree. I've always had a love of animals and problem solving however, and I originally wanted to be a research vet when I was younger, but I've since realised I like the research part more.
TD: For you, what's the most special part about living on the land?
ET: I think it’s a mixture of the space/freedom and the animals. I love how a career in agriculture isn’t a typical career, how your day can involve a 100 different aspects; office work and computers, fixing fences and physical work or solving an issue regarding what ewes do I put in which paddock. It’s a lot of constant problem solving, always using your brain, but no two days are ever the same and neither are the problems. I also love animals and I don’t think I would be as heavily in love with 'Ag' as I am now if it wasn’t for the animals themselves.
TD: What's one thing you have to have with you every day on Stanbridge?
ET: My water bottle for sure! Actually no that is a tough one, I think there’s probably two things I could never ever leave the house yard with, a UHF and a water bottle. Being on a property, personal safety is a must, and with the limited mobile phone service and high summer temperatures always having a camel back/water bottle and a UHF is just an added little safety blanket knowing if something does go wrong I could be okay for a while.
TD: Do you consider farming a job or a lifestyle?
ET: That is a tough one, and honestly I don’t think you could have one without the other. I often see people portraying it as one over the other but I think it is important that people see that it is both. I love the lifestyle, but without the job it wouldn’t be the lifestyle that it is. Like yes, you have to give up certain things like team sports and decent mobile phone and internet services, but you gain through a becoming apart of the most amazing communities. It’s a job that comes with an additional lifestyle. But it’s a lifestyle that comes with an additional job. It’s hard to explain, because you work so hard to ensure the stock that are relying on you have the best care 24/7 so it has to become a lifestyle. The stock themselves don’t have the ability to communicate with you their needs so you have to turn your job into a lifestyle to be successful. I don’t think that’s an agricultural specific thing though. It’s perhaps more obvious in agriculture, but I think within any industry in order to be successful your job becomes much more than a job, and aspects of will influence your lifestyle. My family has always had the sheep before humans attitude – which I believe is important, and there is always someone on the property ensuring the animals welfare.
TD: Farming relies so much on external influences (weather and seasonal prices), do you ever wish you had the predictability and security of a 9-5 job?
ET: Yes and no, it would be nice to not have the stress regarding the lives of livestock, but I think the unpredictability of agriculture is what makes it such an exciting and fulfilling industry. I enjoy the fact that two problems are rarely ever the same, and how each day is different, but sometimes it would be nice to knock off and go on a holiday without stressing over if all the pumps are working! I think a smart farmer is someone who has prepared for the ultimate worst situations regarding markets and natural disasters and hence the risk is lower, but predictability is boring to me – I enjoy a challenge.
TD: If you could swap jobs with anyone in the world for one day, who would it be, and why?
ET: I’ve never really put much thought into it really, but my dream job is research and hence would love to be a top agricultural research scientist for a day. Or someone who is involved in helping third world country’s agricultural industries. Agriculture has the potential to improve and help reduce world hunger, so being involved in a job where you can actually see amazing things like helping end hunger occurring would be the ultimate experience. Seeing the industry and sector you love help improve other people’s lives would be amazing.
TD: You've had some recent success after winning the 2017 Inaugural Landmark NSW Merino scholarship and also the 2014 young Farming Champion representing the wool industry. Aside from winning awards like these, what do you consider as 'Successful Farming'?
ET: Someone who has prepared their business to face the utmost worst is what I think is successful farming. Everyone has a different view and opinion on success, and I think everyone is capable of a different successes. No matter who you are and what you farm, being capable of forward thinking and planning while still taking enough risks to improve your personal business is key for success. But you've also go to be prepared enough in case things go wrong. You can’t really be more successful than that!
TD: Your own success has seen you be a part of a program that sees you presenting to schools, and at shows and fairs. What do you aim to share during these presentations.
ET: Just what I do and how I am involved in 'Ag'. There is often a lot of mixed messages and debate regarding some practices used within industries, and I think being open and upfront about why you do what you do, without becoming defensive or demeaning is important. I always try and answer questions and engage in a conversation about agriculture rather than just say how it is, I think conversations leave a longer lasting effect than a story because it’s two people contributing rather than just one.
TD: Speaking of conversations, do you think there's a gap in rural and urban Australia?
ET: I’m not sure there’s a gap, more like a lot of miscommunications which can lead to a lot of wrong knowledge. But I think the majority of people know little regarding agriculture, and it causes a lot of untruths to be spread. I think there needs to be more communication between both areas and less waiting for a reason to share, more just general communication.
TD: What's the biggest thing you've learnt through farming?
ET: To stay resilient, that mistakes are normal and no one can ever really know everything there is to know. Keep an open mind and stay strong through hard times. Farming has really made me work hard and make sacrifices to get to where I want to be. If I ever have half the work ethic that my father and my grandfather have, added in the amazing resilience and determine of mum and grandma, I think I would get a long way in life. Being raised on a property teaches you a lot of handy life skills from a young age, like learning to be independent from a young age.
TD: What change would you like to see change in the agricultural sector in 2018?
ET: I would love to see less activist false truths, and more industries stepping forward. More explanation of why we do what we do, and how we are always looking for new ways to improve current practices (but we wouldn’t do what we do currently if it didn’t work). More openness with the general public, and less hiding from activists
TD: Finally, do you have any advice for someone who is considering a career in agriculture?
ET: Don’t be scared! Don’t ever be scared of being inexperienced or having no understanding. Get out there, get involved. Do work experience, do the TAFE courses, go to 'Ag' college, get a degree! A lot of people talk of fears if someone won't take them on, or they are scared that because they are a girl that they won’t be capable of the physical side of the job. If I've learnt one thing, it’s that you can literally do anything you put your mind to doing. There are so many amazing people out there who absolutely LOVE getting young people involved in pursuing a career in 'Ag' so never be afraid to get involved. Ask people, the worst they can say is no, and often they will suggest someone who might be able to help. Never be afraid to try.
Get in touch with Emma Turner:
Instagram - @emmalaurel
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