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Beyond the Bale : June 2018
Barossa born and bred Caitlin Heppner grew up surrounded by viticulture, but she is pursuing a career not in wine but wool – a love for which she is keen to share with other young people. Caitlin (second right) with the other five 2017 Young Farming Champions sponsored by AWI to promote the wool industry: Katherine Bain, Sam Wan, Lucy Collingridge, Hamish McGrath, Caitlin and Deanna Johnston (see article opposite). Caitlin on the way to winning the 2017 National Merino Fleece Young Judges Championship which is funded by AWI. A YOUNG CHAMPION CHAMPIONING WOOL At the age of 10, Caitlin Heppner visited Portee Station at nearby Blanchetown with her parents to watch the Australian shearing and wool handling team train. She had never set foot inside a working shearing shed before – and little did she know how much she was about to fall in love with wool. Caitlin says in the shed that day were shearers Shannon Warnest, Jason Wingfield and John Dalla and wool handlers Mel Morris and Debbie Chandler. “I remember sitting on the catching pen rails, watching everyone, totally engrossed in the atmosphere, when suddenly I couldn’t see anything... Jason had thrown a fleece over me, and the feel of the wool and the aroma of the lanolin felt like home. In that moment I knew my life would revolve around the wool industry.” Caitlin began working as a wool handler in local sheds. At 14 she learnt to shear and started to compete in shearing and wool handling competitions – and at just 18, she fulfilled her dream and became a registered Australian Wool Classer. “I had attended Nuriootpa High School and completed my secondary schooling in 2016 through a full-time school-based traineeship in Certificate IV Wool Classing, working with a shearing contractor in outback SA and NSW. I worked as a wool handler under Master Classer Jared Phillips. “Leaving home at the beginning of 2016 was a massive step but choosing to complete my secondary education the way I did was the best decision I ever made. I not only got a head start in my career, but I made many industry contacts and got the chance to live and work in some amazing parts of the country.” FLEECE JUDGING CHAMPION Soon after receiving her AW stencil, Caitlin decided to try out fleece judging competitions, starting at the Crystal Brook Show which duly she won. Never did she Wool classer Caitlin Heppner from Nuriootpa, South Australia, pictured with her pet kelpie Ella, loves the career she has working in the sheds. 36 ON FARM
In the Shops - September 2018