I’m not yet thirty but I’ve already worked in grains, viticulture, horticulture and now the wool industry. It’s been an unconventional path but that’s OK. I think its important people know that with a bit of enthusiasm, anyone will take you on and give you a chance. Looking forward I’m excited to continue to learn new skills, with a view to becoming a leader and a manager of people, in whatever corner of the industry I find myself. One thing is for sure, I’ll be doing work that makes me happy. says Sam Arnfield Project Officer with Australian Wool Innovation
At Picture You in Agriculture we get a buzz out of sharing stories about young people who grew up in the city and discover agriculture is an exciting industry where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered and where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly
This blog post introduces you to Sam Arnfield our man on the spot with Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). Sam’s career journey was first profiled as a 1st year university student. Ten years after leaving school Sam is a project officer working closely with Picture You in Agriculture to ensure our wonderful wool Young Farming Champions are well supported.
This is Sam’s journey to our door and it’s a journey with lessons for us all.
Sam Arnfield sharing the properties of wool with students at RAS of NSW Farm Day education experiences
I grew up on a concrete farm five minutes north of the Adelaide CBD. While I have zero family background in agriculture my love of food, biology and geography made studying it a natural choice and I was very lucky to have a fantastic high school ag teacher, Chris Muirhead, who was buoyant about the prospects of careers in agriculture.
At that time, university enrolments were on the slide and the sentiment in the industry was poor. South Eastern Australia was in the midst of the Millennium Drought and the wool price was around a third or what it is today. However, with booming middle classes in Asia and the advent of e-commerce and smart technology, Mr. Muirhead saw changes on the horizon for our world and our industry. He recognised the importance of enticing people from non-traditional backgrounds into agriculture at a time when young people were leaving the family farm in droves, never to return. I ignored him and followed my school mates to law school.
I took some time off after school teaching English school kids how to play cricket. This was the perfect opportunity to take stock and work out what I really wanted to do with my life. Returning home, I ditched law school before even starting and embarked on a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Adelaide Uni. It was there I met my best friends. We drank together, played footy together and ended up working together for some time.
Without a farm to go back to, or any practical agricultural skills, I foolishly chose the graduate job I thought could earn me the most money. I took a job in grain marketing – not the smartest move for a kid who’d failed maths every year in high school. I sucked, badly, and lasted six weeks and one day.
It was a lesson in doing things for the right reasons and a reminder that you should always do things that make you happy. Maybe that’s a selfish outlook, but we spend more time at work than we do with friends, family and loved ones so we may as well be happy while we do it.
With a degree and no job, I sheepishly went back to a research organisation I’d done some work experience with and begged for a job. I began as a casual, doing all the things nobody else wanted to do – counting potatoes, counting weeds, washing cars and weighing grain. It was mundane but it was fun. At that time, the organisation was packed full of young people, most of whom I’d studied with. We had fun and we worked hard. I stuck around like a bad smell, eventually landing a full-time job where I could spread my time between horticulture, viticulture and the grains sector, conducting field trials for new agro-chemistry.
Jobs in agriculture offer diverse opportunities
The job allowed me to travel around South Australia, learn some practical skills and gain a knowledge in a raft of sectors but I eventually realised I was working because I loved the people and not the work itself. After five years it was time for a change, and time for some more skills.
As serendipity would have it, I met a girl while I was searching for my new job. She just happened to be moving to Sydney. I quickly changed my filter settings to ‘Ag jobs in Sydney’ and before too long we were off. I landed a job at Australian Wool Innovation, which was odd to my friends considering I’ve never worked in wool in my life.
I barely knew the front end from the back of a Merino. I must have bluffed my interviews well, but I think it goes to show that if you’re keen and passionate about ag it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done, or what you know, people will give you a chance.
I got learned up pretty quickly on the sheep front and I’m currently coordinating projects in the Leadership and Capacity Building portfolios. This group of projects aims to capture and retain the best and brightest people within the wool industry. I work with initiatives such as Young Farming Championsto foster the development of young wool industry participants and to encourage YFCs to become inspirations for young people. Other projects involve fostering careers through scholarships, educational resources and leadership programs. I get to work with passionate, smart and driven people from all around Australia every day.
A typical day at the office can include sharing the properties of wool with school students
A typical day in our office at Circular Quay has me collaborating with colleagues, contacts and industry leaders about how to best present the wool industry to students, updating educational resources, planning events and of course all the boring backroom administration. Recently, I’ve been working with colleagues to coordinate a response and to collate information to assist woolgrowers impacted by the recent bushfires.
Although I’ve only been here a year, I’ve learned an incredible number of skills and have grown more confident in my abilities as a communicator. From people management and organisation as well as managing funds and writing legal contracts it’s been a steep learning curve. Stepping out of the paddock into an office was tough but it’s a step I needed to make. My colleagues have been so generous with their time, and I’m absolutely loving my role.
The history and camaraderie that exists within the wool industry is, I think, unique to wool. Everyone I speak to is hell-bent on improving and driving Australian wool forward. Everyone’s got lots of great ideas and with that comes some robust conversations.
At the core of it, wool is a choice for growers and consumers. The challenge to encourage people to continue to grow and buy this fantastic fibre is one that the industry is tackling head on. That discerning consumers around the world are attracted to the sustainable credentials of wool is encouraging and I think the current market value reflects this.
I look forward to playing my role in encouraging young Australians to enter and remain within this vibrant industry.
I’m not yet thirty but I’ve already worked in grains, viticulture, horticulture and now the wool industry. It’s been an unconventional path but that’s OK. I think its important people know that with a bit of enthusiasm, anyone will take you on and give you a chance. Looking forward I’m excited to continue to learn new skills, with a view to becoming a leader and a manager of people, in whatever corner of the industry I find myself. One thing is for sure, I’ll be doing work that makes me happy.