Joe's story: the future of farming

Life growing up on a farm

The best thing about growing up on a farm is having so much space. The community is smaller and closer, and I feel connected to nature. Plus, there’s no traffic jams and no neighbours to complain about a noisy party!

Growing up on a farm meant I was able to roam and be independent. I learnt skills and took on responsibilities from when I was pretty young. It also meant that I spent a lot of time with family. My parents worked on the farm and my siblings were my only playmates, so we all became pretty close.

Working in agriculture was the next step

Working in agriculture is a good way to continue learning about farming and to be a part of rural Australia. Because I was a farm kid and enjoyed it, I’ve just become a bigger farm kid by continuing to work in agriculture.

I work as an agronomist in regional New South Wales – which means I help farmers plan, make decisions and solve problems relating mostly to crops, pastures and soils. The best bit about my job is trying to help farmers improve their businesses.

It’s hard, though, because as a young agronomist I don’t have much experience yet. And the drought has meant there’s a lot less work to do. It’s caused really bad financial problems for farmers, businesses and the wider community. Those financial pressures lead to stress for lots of people, and affect all types of relationships.

I often see farmers who are stressed and worried about how long the drought has gone on for. I’m keen to see them do the best thing in an agronomic sense, such as using the best herbicide for a job. That said, often farmers have to make compromises due to financial pressures.

I’m passionate about sustainable farming

I’m passionate about helping farmers to look at sustainable and productive farming systems. In Australia, the most sustainable practices are likely to be the most productive ones in the long term. For the most part, farmers do things to the best of their capabilities. (Different farmers are limited in different ways.) Farmers should learn and observe as much as they can and do whatever they think suits their situation.

I’m learning a lot as an agronomist. And the longer I stay with it, the more I’ll learn and the better I will get at it, which means I’ll be able to do more for farmers.

How I deal with stress from the drought

I remind myself that drought is part of my career and my location, so I can’t afford to worry too much. That said, I’m lucky to be in a position where the drought doesn’t affect me much financially.

When my relationships are under stress, it’s usually from worrying about what to do, or not to do, about a range of drought-related issues. I try to keep my relationships positive by not letting those issues dominate every conversation.

I also go to plenty of workshops and talk to people about what they’re doing. Everyone has different ideas and knowledge, so exposure to that in any way is good.

What can I do now?