‘I can't see myself working in an office for the rest of my life’


Despite the tough conditions being felt on farms across Australia, these young people are keen to build a life on the land and forge their own path mixing the old with the new.

Sam, 16, is counting down the days until he can get back on the family farm. Life at boarding school in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta is a world away from the red, dusty earth and wide open spaces that he calls home.

“I'd go home tomorrow, today, any day, but there's more opportunities at school,” he explains.

His twin brothers, Tom and Will, aged 17, share the same eagerness to return and build their careers on the land.

“I love the farm and I guess I can't really see myself working in an office for the rest of my life,” Will tells Insight.

However, like much of eastern Australia, the family’s two properties, one in the NSW Riverina, the other in the NSW central west, are struggling under the weight of the drought.

One of the farms the parents of Will, Sam and Tom own. A 27,000 acre cattle farm, located 100 kilometres north of Condobolin in NSW. Photo: Insight

It’s showed the boys, who go home whenever they get the chance, a new side to their weather-hardened dad.

“It was pretty hard. We were all sitting in a room and dad came in after he destroyed like a few cows, pretty upset, and yeah, I looked at my brothers and we were all pretty shocked,” Sam says.

“When I saw him like that I knew that the drought was starting to be a big effect on us.”

But rather than dampen their enthusiasm, the drought has only fuelled the boys’ fervour to return, to help their parents and start their farming careers.

A new era emerging

Despite the tough conditions, the boys are not alone in wanting to make a go at life on the land.

Emma McCrabb, 22, is about to complete her Bachelor of Agriculture and Bachelor of Business and is keen to get back to her family’s business, running two farms in regional NSW. Unlike her two siblings, Emma wants to one day take the helm from her father.

“It's one of those things where just growing up I probably showed the most interest in terms of getting out and into it and dad really fostered that,” McCrabb explains.

But while McCrabb may be keen to return, she’s also determined to get more experience away from the farm.

“That was really, really important for me to learn sort of off farm and possibly in that learn a different way of doing it too.”

And she’s not afraid to teach her dad a thing or two about how he can use technology to do things differently.

“I've had interesting experiences lately where dad's started asking those questions about how those sorts of programs work and it's pretty exciting for me …” she says.

For 21-year-old Archie Weston, he can already see the value of applying what he’s learning at university back on the family farm in central western NSW.

“Well I reckon growing up on the farm you get that practical side of the farming and then I think university is always … getting new ideas and fresh, different looks on things,” he tells Insight.

“It's just a new way of looking at things because older people can sometimes be a bit sort of, I don't know, they've got something over their eyes to new technologies and things like that but it's sort of the up and coming thing.”

Archie Weston and his dad on their mixed farm near Warren in NSW. Photo: Insight

Excited for what’s to come

While they know they can’t control the weather, these members of farming’s next generation are keen to farm smarter and work with, not against, Australia’s harsh drought conditions. And they are excited by what’s ahead.

“I think farming's going to become a lot less labour intensive due to new technologies emerging everywhere and I guess obviously going to become more sustainable and more environmentally friendly,” Will says.

“I think the agricultural industry is only going to grow and become better for young people and future generations.”

For Weston, he understands the importance of the job he’s chosen and the future he’s going to build.

“Farmers are the future. Without farmers there's no food and then there's no future.”