Victoria enjoys a once in a lifetime experience thanks to Australia trip

Victoria Minford, Holestone YFC was awarded a bursary place on the 2019 Exchange Programme which was supported by the Ulster Farmer’s Union.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 10:00 am

On April 25, I embarked on my travels to Tasmania, as the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster Exchangee, flying the 21 hours with Emirates from Dublin-Dubai-Melbourne-Launceston.

On arrival at 10.10am local time I was collected from the airport and taken straight to Quercus, grounds owned by Rural Youth Tasmania. The first week of the exchange programme involves staying and helping at the annual ‘Agfest’ Field Days Event, one of the largest agricultural shows in the southern hemisphere. The show is a three day event, comprising over 737 exhibits from machinery sales to craft stalls and everything in between, which generates in the region of 27 million dollars for the local economy. It is organised, and run solely, by the 150 Rural Youth Members from across Tasmania and is a complete credit to them; each member is dedicated to their role and the overall success of the show. Work started at 8am each morning in the run up to the event; we carried out tasks such as marking out stalls, setting out bins and turning our hands to whatever needed done. At night everyone would head down to the “Crib Room” for a meal and this provided  an excellent opportunity to get to know the others including Emma Harpur, from Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish YFC exchangee.

During the show I was on car parking duty starting at 5:45am every morning. Over the three days there was a footfall of 63,838 which is a phenomenal result considering Tasmania’s population is 515,000. This week was an invaluable experience which allowed me to get to know members of Rural Youth, forging friendships for life and establishing links for the remainder of my programme.

On Sunday, May 5 I travelled to my first host family, Stuart and Kat Creswell. The couple are based in Deloraine and are members of Western Tiers Rural Youth. Stuart works on his home farm, a mixed farm consisting of beef and crops, including potatoes and carrots.  I was delighted to be invited to spend a few days in the lorry accompanying the drivers to the local processing factory with the freshly dug harvest.

I also visited the dairy farm of Stuart’s friend helping to milk 682 jersey cows twice a day. On Thursday work was rained off, so I was given the opportunity to visit Powranna Sales Yard. This was the first time I had experienced an outdoor sale and as a Beef Farmer, having just graduated from Greenmount Agricultural College, this was right up my street. There were approximately 500 head for sale on the day and Stuart purchased a few lots, so the next morning we tagged and dosed the cattle. On Friday, May 10, with Rural Youth members, I drove the three hours to New Norfolk and enjoyed a concert staged by Zac Walsh, who is a local country singer. This was a fantastic night and it was good to meet up with some of my new friends after Agfest. We camped at one of the girl’s houses in “swags”. The next day we journeyed back to Deloraine and I arrived at Stuart and Kat’s just in time to watch Stuart’s hockey match. After the match Stuart dropped me off at my next host, Caitlin Radford, in Moriarty, just outside Devenport.

Caitlin is a member of North Motton Rural Youth; we met at Agfest, and clicked from Day One. Caitlin also farms at home and is an Australian International dressage Rider. I travelled to a dressage show with Caitlin where she picked up 1st in both her classes. Over the period of the week we did some fencing and also kept an eye on her flock of Border Pollworth Cross Ewes who were in the middle of lambing. Once again, this was right up my street! On Wednesday May 15, we met up with Emma Harper, the Scottish Exchangee, along with her host Karley Beer, and travelled to Cradle Mountain where we had the opportunity to walk around the picturesque Dove Lake. On Thursday 16, Georgia Pearce brought over two horses, so Caitlin, Georgia, Sam and I went on a trail ride.

On Sunday, May 19, I moved onto my next host, Jacqui Hodgkinson, who lives in Weetah, near Deloraine. Emma and I were both staying with Jacqui, who had kindly given us the use of a car. We travelled to places like Derwent Bridge and saw the famous “Wall”, a woodcarving explaining Tasmania’s evolution. We also went to Bothwell to visit Ryan Braid who gave us a farm tour of a Sheep and Cropping Farm. This farm has the largest irrigation arm in Tasmania so it was very interesting to see. We also visited “The Devil’s Gullet” and travelled to Smithton with North Motton members, Jake Williams and Georgia Pearce, to sit in on a meeting of the newly formed club, Circular Head. On the Saturday night we were taken to Penguin where we enjoyed a party with a fantastic fireworks display to celebrate “Cracker Night”.

On Sunday 26 we journeyed to our next host, Tobias Tenbensel. Jacqui drove us down through ‘The Great Lakes’. The Lake is 154sq miles and allows for a picturesque drive between the North and South of Tasmania. Tobias lives in Howden, on the outskirts of Hobart and is a member of Kingborough Huon Rural Youth. We enjoyed a trip to Woodbridge Marine Discovery Centre where we learnt more about the inhabitants of local waters, before trying out some locally made cider and cheese.

Tobias works for a local company called Huon Aquaculture which produces 15,000 tonnes of Salmon annually. I was very grateful to Tobias for giving us a tour around the hatchery, which allowed us to see all the different stages of salmon hatching before the fish are released into the fish pens in the sea. We also travelled to Bruny Island and sampled some of the local produce; I particularly enjoyed the cheese, honey, cider and chocolate. The owner of the Bruny Island Chocolate Company had baked Tobias’ parent’s wedding cake, so we were very lucky to be invited into Michael’s home to sample some of his fudge. We were also very kindly given a tour of some of his next ventures which include whiskey distilling. 

After all the treats were consumed, we decided that we should walk off the fudge around a very windy Bruny Island Lighthouse. After a jam-packed afternoon, we set the sail for home as we had a busy night ahead showing off our bowling talent (or lack thereof!) in the Rural Youth Southern Region Bowling Competition. On Thursday night, we met up with state president Dale Hayers, his partner Jocelyn, Nicole Elliot and Bree Bisset for a lovely meal in the Brunswick Hotel in Hobart. 

Our time with Tobias was cut short as we travelled to Quercus on Friday, May 31 in preparation for the much anticipated Agfest Dinner the following night. Emma and I borrowed Jake Williams’ ‘Ute’ (the term Australians use for a pickup) and travelled to Campbelltown Show. It was interesting to see a local County Show, with a display of tractors and also a sheep shearing competition. Western Tiers and Tamar Rural Youth joined forces and held a dog high jump whilst Oatlands Rural Youth held a Ute Competition. These competitions were great to see as they are so different from anything that we have in Northern Ireland.  After a fun day out, we drove back to Quercus to get ready for the dinner.

The Agfest Dinner was a fantastic night, celebrating the success of Agfest and hard work of all the volunteers. 

On Sunday, June 9, we travelled to the very south of Tasmania and most southerly part of Australia, Port Arthur, to our hosts Caine and Ash Evans and their one year old son, Morgan. Caine and Ash are members of Sorrell Rural Youth and Ash is a Past State President. We visited the local ‘Unzoo’ where we got to see some Tasmanian Devils, as well as feed Kangaroos and Parrots. We visited the Port Arthur Historic Site, which was an active prison between 1830 – 1870. This was a secondary punishment station for British convicts which was so interesting to see and learn about. We also took part in a Ghost Tour at the Historic Site which although scary, gave us an insight into what prisoners went through. On Thursday, June 6, we went on a Tasman Island cruise which was a 3 hour boat journey visiting some of the caves along the Coast. On the cruise we were also extremely lucky to see seals, tuna and dolphins, which definitely was one of the highlights of my trip. It wasn’t all play and no work, however, as we spent a day in school with Ash who teaches Agriculture.The school caters for both Primary and Secondary age groups and on this occasion we were working with 6-11 year olds. The tasks of the day included picking appropriate seeds and planting them and helping some of her students halter train Pedigree Shorthorn calves for the impending show season.  

Brady Robins, Oatlands Rural Youth President, visited us one evening and took us to shoot Wallaby which, although cute, are considered a pest to farmers as they graze the grass. Saturday, June 8 sadly marked the end of the exchange; however, luckily for Emma and me, it did not mark the end of our time in Tasmania. 

We were delighted to be offered the chance to stay with some other members of Rural Youth whom we had met over the previous weeks and we were kindly given the use of a car. During this time we explored parts of the State we had not seen before, for example, the Stanley Nut, Wineglass Bay, Mona and the Bicheno Blowhole. Just after the exchange ended, I turned 21. I was delighted to celebrate in true Australian style as my fantastic friends threw a 21st Birthday Bash. I was blown away by the distance my Tassie friends had travelled to party with me on this evening, proof that the friends I have made during my time in Tasmania really are friends for life. I left Tasmania on June 25, flying to Adelaide, to explore some of the Australian mainland with Emma, the Scottish exchangee before taking up jobs in New Zealand in early August. 

I should like to thank Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster for the incredible opportunity, Rural Youth Tasmania, all of my hosts and every member of Rural Youth for being so kind, welcoming and accommodating this once in a lifetime experience. Finally, my thanks and appreciation go to my club, Holestone Young Farmers for their generous gift and the Ulster Farmers Union for awarding me their Travel Bursary.