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Beyond the Bale : September 2017
NEW YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS PROMOTING WOOL First-generation Australian-Chinese Samantha Wan from the urban suburbs of Sydney might not be the typical demographic of someone in the Australian wool industry, but you would be hard pressed to find someone as passionate about the industry as she is. Here new Young Farming Champion Samantha gives us an entertaining account of her entrance into the wool industry. SAMANTHA WAN Mill owner’s daughter. Foreign exchange student. Victim to the lamb-is-a -poodle scam. These are my favourite and most amusing cases of mistaken identity. Hi there, I’m Samantha Wan and I’m a Technical Officer and Auctioneer for Elders Wool, based at the National Wool Selling Centre, Melbourne. I’m a first-generation Australian-born Chinese. My Mum is from Hong Kong with Macanese heritage and Dad is Chinese Malaysian. I’m the eldest of two and from the western Sydney suburb of Blacktown, 35kms west of the Sydney CBD. Looking back, I didn’t know what lamb tasted like until I was around 10 and I have a not so fond memory of Dad putting it into a herbal Chinese soup. The closest thing I had to seeing agriculture in action was Fairfield City Farm in western Sydney, more a petting zoo that showed me how to milk a cow and feed chickens. A career in agriculture never seemed an option so I continued on my merry way expecting to be something (anything) in the Information Technology race. That was until high school when I was introduced to Agriculture. A great teacher, keen classmates and a mixed bunch of black Corriedales opened up the world of ag shows, sheep classes and junior judging. Even though I was quietly sure this was the start of something bigger, my family weren’t sure what to make of the pieces of satin I hung so proudly and if the fun and enjoyment would ever amount to anything. Wool broker doesn’t quite make the top three careers your Chinese child should be (see doctor, lawyer and accountant) so it’s a good thing my parents didn’t fall too hard into stereotypes. After all, my first car would have been my grandma’s old Corolla hatchback instead of a Commodore ute, and I’d say it takes a bit of willpower to let your firstborn journey off to places like Yass, Hay, Dubbo, Molong and Warren after you have only had them pointed out on a map. “If by sharing my story I’m able to convey my passion for an industry that adopted such a black sheep, it might open the eyes of someone who didn’t think agriculture was the place for them.” SAMANTHA WAN, YOUNG FARMING CHAMPION As was expected, I went to university: the University of Sydney for Science in Agriculture. I also did cross-institutional Wool units with the University of New England (UNE). There was more than a bit of alarm when I decided to take a break for a Certificate IV in Agriculture at Richmond TAFE. It was different to say the least and I relished the opportunity for a more hands-on go at animal husbandry, including halter breaking in steers. I did eventually go back to university to complete a project on ‘Vitamin B12 Response Trial in Merino Ewes Incorporating Iodine Supplementation Pre-lambing’. Through my Wool units at UNE, I was accepted into a short-term student research position with the Australian Wool Testing Authority in Melbourne ‘The Measurement of Colour on New Zealand Wool using Near- Infrared (NIR)’. The industrial training gave me a huge insight into the processes and innovation associated with wool testing. To date, I’ve been with Elders just over five years. Each day has something a bit different to deal with – putting AWEX IDs on wools from across the country, seeing the wool in the shearing shed and now as samples in boxes on the showfloor, analysing and valuing clips, auctioneering on sale day, discussing markets with clients and keeping an eye on the dollar. The challenge of assisting with benchmarking events such as the Ovens Valley wether trial, the Gippsland Sheep Breeders’ wether trial and the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trials through data calibration, wool valuing and AWEX- IDing wools also adds another dimension to the work. Volunteering as a sheep steward while studying allowed me to network, seek out opportunities and be on the front line of hearing what judges discussed and favoured. Now working in the industry, the advantages are still the same but with a stronger sense of being part of the chain. Agriculture has allowed me to see truly stunning areas of Australia, add to my experiences and meet amazing people, most of whom I still list as my mentors today. I get to tell the best stories to bewildered aunties and uncles while my sister envies how soft lanolin makes my hands. I love how dynamic the industry is and the tales about how the industry used to be, how many generations have been farming the same land, and hearing the tales come to life rather than just reading it from a book. The teachers and mentors in my life didn’t just give a suburban kid a glimpse of a world outside the city. They enriched my life. From them I drew direction into an incredibly rewarding, constantly evolving industry. If by sharing my story I’m able to convey my passion for an industry that adopted such a black sheep, it might open the eyes of someone who didn’t think agriculture was the place for them. Young Farming Champion Samantha Wan at last year’s Sheepvention in Hamilton, Victoria. PHOTO: Tracey Kruger ON FARM 31
In the Shops - September 2017