Introducing Tahna Jackson. A South Australian by birth, Tahna is now the Regional Manager for AgForce Queensland.
I grew up on a dairy and stud Charolais beef operation on the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia. My childhood was idyllic, on the weekends playing netball and going to the footy (AFL) with my parents who were always involved either as coaches, umpires or in the canteen.
When I think back now, I realise how much of an extraordinary effort that was for my parents as they had to get up extra early on the weekends to milk the “girls” so we could play sport. I’m sure they were happy when my brother and I were no longer playing in the junior teams and could at least get a few more jobs done at home before travelling off to the game!
As a kid I liked the beef side of the operation more so than the dairy. Back in the mid ‘80s the South Australian Beef Cattle Producers started the first combined all-breeds Heifer Expo as they recognised the benefits this would have on the industry. Having young participants involved in the education program encouraged young people to be involved with leadership skills that would enhance and grow the beef industry.
At the very first one I was the second youngest kid to participate. I was honoured some years back when I was invited back to help judge the Handler competition at the 20th anniversary.
When we lived in Boulia, Queensland, I helped run the pens of cattle for the “Back to Boulia” show weekend. As I had ties with the stud industry I helped set up a junior judging in Boulia-style, including a rule that no thongs were allowed in the judging ring!
The winner of this was then sent down to the SA Heifer Expo with the help of a sponsor. I felt then, and still do now, that young enthusiastic isolated bush kids should have the same opportunity to be involved with judging cattle as I did.
From my “showing” years I have met some wonderful people- some I’m still very good friends with and will be for life. I was even the secretary to the SA Young Beef Breeders, a group that helped with an education program.
Each year at the Royal Adelaide Show we would “train the trainers”. Schools around the state would enter steer/s into the competition and we saw this an opportunity to help Agriculture teachers, who may not have a background in show preparation and show handling.
I would go into schools before show day and help with last minute advice for the students and sometimes even help clip the animals. Once at the show we would hold a day where we would go through the “what to do and what not to do”.
I believe this program is still running today – what better way than the youth of today helping other young people grow together to make sure we all have a strong future?
After I finished at University, I headed North to work on cattle stations in the NT, Western Australia and Queensland. During these years I saw the most wonderful things and met some of the most extraordinary people.
People who faced and survived years of drought; people who lost loved ones so far away from medical help; people who had to send kids 1000s of kilometres away so they got a good education; people who didn’t mind that they got mail once a week or sometimes no mail for five weeks at a time due to flooding, and most important of all, people who you knew you could count on when things were down and you needed help.
Back in 2007 my husband decided he needed a change from the industry that he had worked in since he had left school. This gave me an opportunity to use what I had gone to Uni for; it just happened at the time AgForce (an agripolitical lobby group representing Queensland’s broadacre producers) was looking for a new Regional Manger in Longreach. The PD sounded like me to a ‘t’! So in 2007 I joined the AgForce team.
AgForce provides direction and solutions for our members to overcome challenges and build on opportunities, and links rural and regional Queensland with urban communities through our Every Family Needs A Farmer initiative.
I’m the first point of contact for members in the North region. On a day to day basis this can be topics ranging from industrial relations, wild dog issues, Wild rivers, vegetation management, CSG, live export, leasehold renewals, Workplace Health and Safety, leasehold rents, you name it I get asked about it!
This is what I love about my job; no two days are the same and this keeps it interesting. Having my background also makes my job so much easier than if I had grown up in the city. As I can talk KVAs, I know what mustering is and I know the day to day struggles one can have on the land.
2. For you, what is the best lifestyle factor that you enjoy as a farmer?
The best part of growing up on a farm is that you learn valuable lessons as a child. You understand where your food comes from and you appreciate it all the more. You learn about being patient, as livestock don’t always do what you want them to do. You learn that country people, no matter where you meet them, will always know a friend or relative back home.
You learn that no matter how long between drinks with friends they will always be your friends. You learn that the neighbour may not really like a cross-breeding program when the “prize bull” escapes. You learn at a very young age to respect your elders and they in turn will respect you.
You learn that yes, you can ride over yourself with a 3-wheeler (one of the reasons I’m sure they are no longer on the market). You learn that even though your blood relatives live in another state, your neighbours living next door to you – even if that’s more than 60km away – become your relatives also.
3. What do you foresee as your biggest short term and long term challenges in farming?
Having to meet an ever-increasing amount of government legislation already is and will continue to be one of agriculture’s biggest issues in the coming years. We need strong leaders to realise food security isn’t just for Australia but the world. We need leaders who don’t just react hastily to minority groups who often only have one goal in mind.
We need leaders who will find the right balance for agriculture and the resource sector. We need leaders who will not only listen but take on broad issues and act on them appropriately.
There is also a old saying that is still used today and I wish that – whether you call yourself a farmer, grazier or producer – we all embrace … “united we stand divided we fall.”
4. What do you wish non-farmers / city people & the Australian Government understood about farming. What message would you like to put on a billboard in Collins Street?
“Every Family Needs a Farmer” including YOURS!
Contact Tahna Jackson on Twitter @LongreachQTahn