Samara is a leader in her field
WHEN co-owner of Poole's Produce Adele Poole dobbed in her employee Samara Cassidy as a potential Queen of the Paddock, she said she was "sick of hearing that there were no young people in agriculture".
"It's just not true," she said. "On our stretch of the Granite Belt there's a good four or five families with the next generation coming through."
Next generation like Samara from Goldfields piggery and sheep property Karangi.
With her husband Marty Cassidy, Samara is now in the process of taking over the 150-sow capacity piggery 50km west of Stanthorpe, from her in-laws. She also juggles home-schooling her 12-year-old daughter Jordan, raising her three-year-old son Beau and working in the office at Poole's Produce.
"I'm learning lots about pigs at the moment," she said. "It all gets a bit chaotic but I'm a play-it-by-ear kind of person."
How did you come to Stanthorpe and be on the land?
"I didn't grow up on the land, and never expected to end up here, but Dad was in the army, so when he was posted to Wallangarra in 1996 we moved to Stanthorpe.
"Growing up we always had horses, and after school I went to Orange to study equine business management, but I probably spent a bit too much time at the pub so I took a year off."
She came back to the Granite Belt to start work at Croydon Park horse stud.
Her gap year eventually became a gap 18months when she started work at Risdon Park horse stud before falling pregnant with her daughter at 21.
"When my daughter started Prep five years later, I came to work in the nursery at Poole's."
The Bapaume family operation grows baby leaf, cauliflower, lettuce and cos lettuce, leeks, celery and cabbage.
"Before working in the nursery I'd never worked in horticulture, but it wasn't hard to adjust - it's just a matter of doing what you have to do."
Do you come across much resistance, being a woman in agriculture?
"Not really, there are lots of women in the horse industry and Pooles are so family-oriented, but in some places there is still that culture that woman's place is in the home.
"But I've grown up with the mentality that you just do what is required of you: if wood needs to be chopped you go help, no matter if you're man, woman or child."
Do you worry about the future of agriculture?
"On Christmas Eve last year my husband and I just sat back and thought we have no water. There is nothing left, what are we going to do?
"Marty had already taken a job in town, and I was still working at Poole's, so we just thought what else, but thankfully we got six inches on Christmas Day, which filled up our dams again.
"But it's tough, the drought wore my family down - you can't make it rain, and you can't keep buying in water. We'd be broke in a week.
"People are always going to need to eat though, so there'll always be a need for agriculture."
What do you like most about working in the primary industries?
"I like the people. They are genuine because they know how hard it can get, but they also know how good life can be."
Are you excited to be taking over the piggery?
"As my husband said, it's exciting to be able to row your own boat, but it's also scary because it's our money now that is subject to the elements. It's just going to mean a bit more juggling.
"At the moment we're only feeding 40 sows while we work out how to do it all, so in the mean time my husband and I are still working off-farm jobs to supplement our incomes."
How do you fit in home schooling on top of everything else?
"Three years ago our school bus service was cancelled due to lack of children so we decided to home-school our daughter.
"I never thought I would be home-schooling my children, but you've got to do what you've got to do.
"Thank God I've got good parents and parents-in-law and bosses who are very family-oriented.
"At first I was worried about my children's socialisation, but my daughter does dance and she's in pony club; I think they're actually more socialised across a larger group of people.
"Plus Stanthorpe has a fantastic group of home-schooling families that meet every Tuesday, so all the kids can play together.
"The whole village is raising my kids."