Its over 170 years since my ancestor Bryan Egan came to the Macquarie valley in search of good grazing country to lay claim to land so he could start and grow his own small cattle herd. In 1839, he came to Mount Harris and it was here he stayed.
My name is Ben Egan and I am lucky enough to be a 6th generation farmer. Needless to say, farming is in my blood. It’s my passion, my job, It’s my life!
Located in the Macquarie Valley, north of Warren in the central west of NSW is our family farm, “Kiameron”. A lot has changed since 1839, but the history, values and commitment to the land is still strong. Even today we still live in the same house our ancestors built in the late 1870’s.
Kiameron Homestead Late 1870’s
Kiameron Homestead Today
Today ‘Kiameron’ covers 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres), including 1100ha of irrigation, 1100ha of dry land and 3800ha of grazing country.
Our main enterprise is cotton but we also grow other crops such as sorghum, wheat, canola, chick peas and as tradition would have it we still graze around 700 head of cattle.
From an early age I loved to explore the outdoors, running around making bow n arrows, riding motorbikes and driving around the farm with dad. Right from the word go, the love of farm was there and I wasn’t afraid to show it.
Standing next to dad when I was about 10, at a local swimming carnival, I looked around and said; “you know, I think I’ve got my life pretty well sorted, I think I’ll leave school, do a bit of swimming, then come back and kick you out!”. And a succession plan was born.
I was lucky enough to go to boarding school in Sydney. I was astonished at how little some of the city boys knew about life on a farm and living in the country. I was confronted one lunch time by a day student who asked me “so, do you have TV out in the bush?”, “TV? What’s that?” I replied laughing. I began to explain to him about life on the farm and what really happens beyond the farm gate. This then led to many of my city friends wanting to come out to the farm in the holidays to chase feral animals, ride motorbikes and go to the ever popular Marthaguy picinic races.
During my lifetime I have had some life changing experiences and reminders of how lucky we are in this country. In year 11 I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia to help build houses for rural communities. This was a wonderful experience and a huge eye opener to the culture and way of life in a country which had been torn apart by communism and war.
After completing my HSC, I was awarded a GAP placement at a school in England. This was a chance for me to travel and explore what the world had to offer. My 12 months abroad working at Stonyhurst College saw me interact with students with all different backgrounds. However it was becoming a bit of an on-going recurrence to find students (even in a different country) had little knowledge of farming or where their food and fibre comes from. They were astonished when I told them that I was a farmer and after talking to them for a while they began to realise how important farmers are and started being a little more appreciative of the people who put food on our plates and clothes on our back.
After a year of being away from agriculture, I desperately needed to get my hands dirty. Going to the Territory had always been on the ‘to do’ list and it was now time to don the akubra, dust off the boots and get in the saddle.
Working at Eva Downs and Camfield station in the NT was an unbelievable experience. It was here that I learnt the value of a dollar, meaning of an honest days work, and the beauty this country can produce.
I have now spent the last four years furthering my education at university and have now gained a Bachelor of Business majoring in Farm Management at Marcus Oldham College in Geelong.
Farm tours were a usual part of the curriculum at Marcus. A chance for us to visit farms, analyse their business and learn about their management strategies and tactics. A tour to the Riverina saw us visit a few cotton farms, much to my delight as it has always been a passion of mine and an enterprise I could relate to. In the third year of my degree, our class travelled to China to explore the agribusiness sector on an international scale, leaning about the customs and relations with one of Australia’s biggest trading partners.
Today, I am working full time on the family farm, applying my knowledge learnt in the classroom into the real world and it is very exciting. We have recently finished picking the 600ha of cotton as well as 300ha of sorghum with good yields. Although harvest is only just finished, I am already getting excited about next years crop and the influence I will have. I am currently implementing a transition from flood furrow irrigation methods to lateral move and bank-less channel irrigation to help improve water use efficiencies.
I feel that there is a great need for the young farmers out there to get out and have a voice, to communicate with people and let them know about the good things our farmers do and how vital they are to the community and the economy.
Communicating and raising awareness and the challenges and constraints of farming with young people and the many different career paths it offers is a vital part helping to drive change for the agriculture sector in the way we do business with everyone along the supply change. Its with great pride and excitement to see the number of these programs like the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions that are available to grow skills and knowledge for young people in agriculture .
I It concerns me that the average age of farmers today is 52 years old. It scares me that the only options we seem to have is that farms are lucky enough to be handed down to the next generation or sold to large corporate entities and overseas investors who have the capital and borrowing capacity to purchase large parcels of prime agricultural land.
Where are all the young farmers? We’re here, we just need to be heard and be given a chance. I personally would like to see more programs that support and help young farmers buy into farming and enable them to pursue their passion.
But agriculture doesn’t just entail farms. There are endless career opportunities within the agricultural sector with great programs to help people get involved and support our industry. I challenge the young people of today to put their hand up and be heard, ask questions, challenge the status quo, support our farmers and just have a go!
This is our future. Come be a part of it!