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'In 2016, my family and I bought a farm before the two-year drought. We regret nothing.'

I am not a generational farmer. I am a 27-year-old female from Sydney who bought a property and ran head-first into a two-year drought.

To take you back to where it all began, it was my first horse riding lesson when I was five. That was it. I was hooked. Growing up in Sydney and riding horses every chance I could was my life. My parents, both bankers, were neither into horses or farming. Due to my riding enthusiasm Easter holidays soon became tradition to head out to the country with some family friends and join other city folk trying to escape for the country experience, and of course trail riding.

As soon as I could, I started studying agriculture at school and once year 12 was finished I moved onto college in the Hunter Valley to study horses and agriculture. With the goal of one day owning and running my own farm, I started work in the agricultural industry. I travelled around working on different properties, meeting new people and learning as much as I possibly could. I loved reading Rachael Treasure’s books, The Jillaroo, Stockman and many others, which introduced me to regenerative agriculture.

girl on a horse
Maddy's love of horses started young. Image: Supplied / SBS Insight.

In July 2016, Mum, Dad and I looked at our first property. My buzz was quickly lost that night with the news Mum was losing her fight to cancer. Looking and buying a property at this time became difficult but as mothers often do they continue to encourage you to follow your dreams and not give up. In August we owned a farm. It was the most magnificent season, with what I thought was endless grass. We stocked the property full of cattle. Then reality hit. The rain stopped, and my mum passed away soon after.

The last two years have been a whirlwind with numerous steep learning curves. Not only grasping how to run a business but how to cope with the worst drought many people today have ever experienced. A course I attended in regenerative agriculture was my game changer. I now look at my farm differently and try to think outside the box. I manage my stock with an online tool to keep track of my grazing chart. This helps me to measure and manage grass, enabling my paddocks to have full recovery before being re-grazed. This improves my soil health and plant diversity, to increase my drought tolerance.

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Maddy working on the farm.
Maddy working on the farm. Image: Supplied / SBS Insight.

The recent decision to completely destock, selling my cow and calf herd, was difficult to make this early into my business venture. Although a tough decision, I have not looked back, and I am looking forward to seeing how quickly the land responds once the season turns around.

I feel lucky I wasn’t a generational farmer and did not have preconceived ideas about what to do and how to run my farm. I don’t claim to know it all, but investing in expanding my knowledge I think has been key. I have made plenty of mistakes but think I am in a much better position due to the education and training I have received. I firmly believe education and an open mind is the only solution to drought.

As for me, I’m chewing at the bit for the season to turn around. If I could give any advice to a young person wanting to enter agriculture: It's beyond exciting, a constant learning curve, and no two days are ever the same. It can be testing and hard work but extremely rewarding. Go for it!

Maddy is a guest on tonight’s episode of Insight at 8.30pm on SBS, which asks how the next generation plan to make a go of life on the land.

Have you ever wanted to work on the land? Tell us in a comment.

We took our Mamamia Out Loud live shows to rural NSW to support the drought relief. This is what it looked like.

Video by MMC
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