Coming off family farms, and studying agriculture at Longerenong College, are the common denominators of Fox & Lillie Rural’s newest recruits, Emma McCrae and Tom Roughead.
The duo graduated from the college last year, and commenced their traineeships at Fox & Lillie Rural earlier this year, where they both have different lists of responsibilities.
Based at Hamilton, Ms McCrae’s role is as certification standards coordinator, where she manages the company’s specialised wool sourcing program, supporting Australian woolgrowers to meet certification to allow them to have different marketing options.
Whereas Mr Roughead manages Fox & Lillie Rural’s showfloor at its wool store in Melbourne, and has just begun dabbling in auctioneering.
While it was a nervewracking experience at the start, Mr Roughead said auctioneering is a skill he hopes to continue to improve.
“Wool auctions are very quick, and hard to keep up with, but the buyers in the room are very patient when you’re starting,” he said.
Both agreed that Fox & Lillie Rural has provided a range of training in all aspects of the wool industry.
This hands-on experience has built on the knowledge and skills obtained not only at Longerong but on their family farms.
They both go home on weekends to help out, Ms McCrae to her family’s cattle operation at Casterton, and Mr Roughead to his family’s sheep and cropping farm at Bung Bong.
While Ms McCrae didn’t come from a sheep farming background, experience in roustabouting and shearing encouraged a career in the industry.
Unfortunately they both agreed that a lack of agriculture knowledge among staff at their high schools meant discussions about career pathways in the industry were non-existent.
“From about year 10, I had a fair idea of what path I wanted to go down, but I think staff at my high school really struggled to understand it,” Mr Roughead said.
“I was never the most academic kid at school, but when I was at Longerenong, I performed a lot better because the school was more focused on what I was interested in.”
He said the perception that to be in the agriculture industry you have to be a ‘farmer’ is diminishing, as more opportunities arise.
“There’s a huge variety of pathways, from studying at Longerenong, I could have gone on to be a farmhand, to an agronomist, to exporting cattle, to what I am now, there are so many different aspects to it,” he said.
Ms McCrae said it’s inspiring that a young person doesn’t have to come from a big farm to be a part of the industry.
“Because there are more opportunities available, it’s a lot easier for people like myself who come from small farms to get in,” she said.
The duo were the first recipients of Fox & Lillie Rural’s foundation scholarship at Longerenong College.