As featured in One Farm Day … stories from beyond the farm gate
Story and images by Sophie Hanson
Tuesday 20 September 2012
Farm Manager Wendy Bowman believes that to be successful in farming these days, you need to be educated and connected.
Although she grew up on a farm, it took many years before she could call the paddock her work place.
“When I left school, farming was never presented to girls as a career option. So instead I finished school and enrolled in a three-year Graduate Program with Grace Bros.”
Soon after completing that program Wendy was ready to leave Sydney behind and took a job in Parkes managing the local Grace Bros home-wares division. Now fast forward to Wendy’s 30th birthday and the year she finally decided to switch careers and become a full-time farmer.
The first step was to enrol in a Farm Management course via the University of Sydney’s then Orange campus. It took six years to complete her Advanced Diploma in Farm Management, and along the way she met and married her husband Rob. They now live at Cargo where he farms and Wendy commutes (40 minutes each way) to her job as Farm Manager on Liscombe Pools, a 2750 acre property tucked down in a beautiful valley between Canowindra and Mandurama.
“I quite like not living and working on the same farm,” she admits, “it’s good to be able to turn off at the end of the day and drive away. Not many farmers have that separation between work and home, so I consider myself lucky!”
As for her studies, the most important skill Wendy says she learnt at university was, “to constantly question everything you do on the farm. Farming technology is ever-changing so I am always asking myself; are we doing this the best way and how can we do it better. Just because a farm has been managed a certain way for 50 years doesn’t mean that’s still best,” she says.
Luckily Wendy’s father, and now colleague, has been open to and enthusiastic about these changes.
“Dad has been great,” she says, “soon after I came back we got rid of the sheep and cropping to concentrate on our Angus herd. We figured out that the three different enterprises (sheep, crops, cattle), were clashing and spreading our resources too thinly. Already the bloodline has improved, we are getting higher prices for our calves and the farm itself is healthier and more productive.”
Despite having her diploma in Farm Management Wendy continues to study. She enrols in workshops and programs run by the local Landcare office or NSW DPI field officers, attends field days when she can, participates in online forums, takes e-courses and more recently finished a Grazing for Profit and Holistic Farming course.
“It can be hard to set time aside to take a course or go to a field day,” she says, “there’s always going to be something to do on the farm – but I think it’s important to make the effort”.
And not only for learning reasons. Wendy also counts networking and socialising at such events as equally important.
“Farming can be a solitary job so it’s important to stay connected, to go along to these events and absolutely to get online.”
Email, Wendy believes, has made a huge difference to the farming community.
“It’s is perfect for farmers because most of us have dodgy phone reception during the day and it can be hard to track each other down. With email you can connect whenever it suits, catch up on correspondence and get organised without having to worry about phone range.”
A member of the Midwest Angus Association, Wendy explains how the group runs pretty much all of its affairs via email, allowing everyone to participate wherever they might be based and whatever their working hours.
Wendy Bowman is a seriously impressive woman. And while it might have taken her a while to get to farming as a career, she is certainly making up for lost time. She’s also a great role-model for young women with dreams of getting into farming as a professional career, “there’s nothing a woman can’t do on a farm,” she says, “and there are some things we do better than men too! You just need know your stuff and have the right gear”.