Introducing Mae Connelly from Pingrup in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Mae’s Story is number 26 in my Farmer Blogs series, celebrating the Australian Year of the Farmer.
Summary of your family and farming enterprise
My husband Rohan has been working on his family’s grain and sheep farm at Pingrup for the last 10 years. His family are currently working towards bringing him into the partnership. They farm approximately 10,000 acres over several blocks and produce roughly 50% merino and cross-bred sheep, and 50% grain (wheat, barley and lupins). I work full time as a farm consultant, providing independent grain marketing advice to private clients.
For you, what is the best life style factor that you enjoy as a farmer?
The best bit about being a farmer is where you live. I love the quiet, the wildlife, the peace and the space you have on a farm. I have always loved animals, so having plenty of space for my dogs, cats, chooks, ducks and pet sheep is fantastic. I also value having the space for a large orchard and vegie garden.
What do you foresee as your biggest short and long term challenges in farming?
One of the biggest challenges facing farming is the lack of people involved in agriculture, either directly as farmers or indirectly inassociated professions. It also worries me that people who are not involved in agriculture seem to have such a negative perception of our diverse and fascinating industry. I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, but spent all my school holidays with relatives “in the bush” – so I always had an understanding and empathy for both country and city living. Even as a kid, it worried me that most of my city friends hardly visited the country at all. With numbers of farmers being reduced each year, fewer and fewer city-based children will have the experience of agriculture that I had growing up.
Other challenges farming faces includes the impacts of global warming, increased government interference (eg live export) and the ever-dwindling profit margin available as costs increase without commodity prices increasing. However, I believe that if we can get more people engaged and participating in agriculture, we will have the skills and ability to overcome all other challenges. The people problem needs to be solved first.
It isn’t a one-way street either – agriculture needs to be proactive about finding ways to constructively engage with non-farmers rather than dismissing all city dwellers as “the enemy”.
What do you wish non-farmers/city people and the Australian Government understood about farming? What message would you like to put on a billboard in Collins Street?
I wish that people who aren’t currently involved in agriculture would take a little bit more interest in where their food and fibre comes from, and how a large proportion of our land mass and our water resources are being managed – by farmers. One simple way to do this would be to follow a farmer on Twitter (there are plenty, don’t believe the stereotypes!). Find out through your own network of friends, family and colleagues if anyone has farming contacts – and organise a visit one day. Most farmers would love you to show an interest and would take the time to show you a working farm. If we can get more contact between farmers and non-farmers, a lot of the misunderstandings should disappear.
If I could put a billboard on Collins Street, it would read
Farming is Sexy!!!
website: Farmanco Marketing