Introducing Alexandra Guild, her story is number 31 in my quest to feature 52 Farming Stories in 52 weeks to celebrate the Australian Year of the Farmer.
I only came to live in the bush at the age of 43 and hit the ground running, so to speak. 1995 was a year of drought, not the first year of that drought and it would also not be the last. My then boyfriend, now husband of 15 years, was cutting railway sleepers to create the income we needed to pay for the feed we had to buy to keep the cattle alive.
In 1996 our daughter was born and, from the age of two weeks, spent her days in a car baby capsule while I was doing the rounds all day, nearly every day, feeding molasses and additives to the cattle. In 2001 our daughter started pre-school. She and I spent the early hours of the day in the schoolroom and the rest of most days feeding cattle while my husband was cutting sleepers for……well by now you should know why.
In 2003, after battling the EPA for over 5 years and not succeeding to obtain an acceptable renewal of our two pastoral and one special leases, we capitulated and with a heavy heart sold my husband’s family property where he had been the third generation cattle grazier.
We bought another place a bit further North. Contrary to our expectations the country was far less productive than it’s reputation had made us believe. On top of that we struck the three worst drought years on record since 1937 (when the bureau of meteorology rain recording had started on that property). After selling up again in 2006, we moved to the Atherton Tablelands. We will never seriously complain about rain – not after my husband spent the better part of his whole life battling drought – but there is the odd day where either my husband or I, and sometimes both of us, have a few choice words to say about the weather when, once again, it is too wet and therefore too dangerous to muster the steep hill paddocks on quad bikes.
So it is more than a fair question if you ask: Why do you like to work in agriculture and why would you encourage young people to choose to work in agriculture?
My reasons are many but the most important ones are:
1) Farmers provide people with what they need to satisfy their most basic and most important needs (namely the raw product for their food and their clothing). Being a cattle grazier, producing healthy, well bread cattle to provide people with healthy, good tasting meat makes me very proud.
2) After having grown up in a large, crowded European city, living in the bush gives me an immense sense of freedom which, for me, cannot be replicated anywhere else.
3) Living on the land and working in agriculture means that you are constantly confronted with all facets of the power of Mother Nature. If you think you can bend her to your will, she will, as sure as the sun rises in the morning, smack you in the back of your head and most probably put a big boot in your rear end for good measure and keep doing it until you learn to work with her and not against her. That, to me is one of the most rewarding aspects of working in agriculture. If you learn to work with nature, nature will challenge you to do your very best every step of the way, but she will also reward you with her breathtaking beauty and her splendid bounty and that has given me a form of job satisfaction that none of my other jobs ever could.
A proud cattle grazier who would never again want to be anything else.