Introducing Rob and Marg Agnew from Esperance, WA
1. Family and enterprise
My husband Rob and I are between farming and retirement and we live on a property north east of Esperance in WA. We downsized a couple of years ago and now work on our holding that keeps us gainfully employed and busy but without the pressure of putting in a winter crop and selling off prime lambs.
I call myself a hobby farmer compared to my neighbours, but in reality I am busy around the farm every day and 7 days a week. The decision was made to keep life simple and stay with merinos and with the lift in wool and meat prices it has been a sound decision.
2. The lifestyle of being a farmer
I dislike being regimented and by being self employed and a farmer it gives me the freedom to work at my own pace each day as long as I complete the work at the end of they day, it doesn’t matter what order I do the work in, as long as it is done. I enjoy the freedom of being able to make decisions and get on with the job, although decision-making is constant and does become tiring. Farmers have to be flexible and often make decisions on the run.
People underestimate the powerful influence the weather has on our daily lives. Although we work outside all day, the decision made in the evening of what we will do the next day can easily be changed by the weather upon rising. Most jobs are better undertaken with the right weather conditions. For example, spraying or harvesting crops would not happen in the rain, high winds or excess temperatures. Sheep shearing can be held up due to extreme heat and too much rain or even slight moisture.
Nothing tops the magic moments of farming when you see a new born lamb with its mum, or loading a road train of grain and seeing it go out the gate to market.
The wonderful site of seeing emerging crops in the early morning with dew on the leaves and with promise of the potential to bring ‘home the bacon’. What a beautifully feeling of working with wool on the shearing table and seeing the results of your management over the past 12 months.
3. What do you foresee as the challenges in farming?
I am passionate about farming and I see how many outside influences are eroding our industry in confidence and financially. The duopoly of the supermarkets and the control they put on the price of food and use it as a tool to bring customers through the door, without understanding the real value of our produce and the producer, is just insane and will have long term consequences.
The insidious way we allow imported food to compete against our local producers. I realise we are an exporting nation but there has to be a line drawn in the sand that puts a duty on imported produce so we an compete on a level playing field. The sale of our local manufacturing industries to mulit-nationals and over seas interest is also another way of loosing control of our industry. I am scared about our own food security and how we could end up being net importers of food we place on our table.
4. What do I wish?
I wish that everyone, including our own farmers valued themselves and the contribution they make by providing 3 meals a day, everyday. Nickel, gold and iron ore will not feed families. Farming is an invisible industry, it happens out there and away from the cities where most of our population resides. Therefore, we are out of sight out of mind, and as much as I would like farming to be in people’s faces and demonstrate how important our industry is, we will always be seen as useful but not important.
I feel our nation has to learn to pay more for their food and the fine quality that we provide, and if they don’t, well it be at their cost and ours in the future.
5. What would I like to see on a billboard in the city?
Love my food, love farmers
This is blog number 9 in my commitment to feature 52 farming stories in 2012.