City gal paves way for young farmers
ZOE Carter is not your average jillaroo.
The 19-year-old has recovered from a shocking horse-riding accident which left her with a broken back among a long list of other injuries that could have deterred her from applying for a physical job on the land.
And, as much as she hates to admit it, she grew up as a "city kid”.
Farming hasn't been born and bred into her as it has for many others who seek work on stations.
While she is fighting for her own foothold within the agriculture industry, she is also paving the way for more young people like her through the platform she founded, Young Aussie Farmers.
At the moment YAF is a Facebook group allowing those working in agriculture across the country to network, but one day she hopes it will supply education, pathways and funding to help teens and young people secure jobs in agriculture.
This week, in between a long drive from Cooimbil Station in New South Wales to the grain country in Victoria, Zoe caught up with the Rural Weekly to talk horses, healing and heading bush.
GROWING up in Geelong, Zoe always preferred to be outdoors.
"We had horses about half-an-hour from home and eventually my parents got sick of driving out so we bought a property, only about five acres out of town,” she said.
"That's the closest thing I have had to farming.”
Finding her first job within the industry was a culmination of hard work, top references and a brilliant agriculture department at her high school.
"I was extraordinarily lucky with my school in Geelong, they have an agriculture section and have 1000 acres attached,” she said.
"I spent literally all of my time at school on the farm.
"That was the only reason I could get a foot in the door for agriculture jobs.”
Zoe said she wouldn't have been given her first start on a station without the help of a certain farmer.
"Roger Polkinghorne from Charinga Merinos, I cannot thank him enough,” she said.
"He was the bloke who really got me into the industry.
"He taught me all the basics and gave me great references that allowed me to get jobs on stations.
"I think it's about finding that one good farmer who will take you on when you have no experience.
"It's hard on them as they have to pay someone who has not got a lot of knowledge.”
BEFORE Zoe headed west, she was working hard within the horse industry, breaking in at Yass when she had a near-fatal accident.
"It was my last day on the job,” she said.
"I had a horse slip over on top of me. I fractured my back, shattered my pelvis, had internal bleeding in my liver, kidney and bladder and I busted my elbow,” she said.
It took months for her to recover.
"I was in Canberra Hospital for a while, then in a wheelchair for four weeks,” she said.
Despite all this, Zoe describes herself as lucky.
"I am very lucky my boss was quick-thinking. She took my helmet off. There were people around when it happened,” she said.
"I am alive, I am breathing, I am working and I am happy - I'm pretty lucky.”
Nowadays, the accident only gives her grief on very cold mornings with "a little bit of pain” and it shattered a little confidence originally when she first got back on a horse.
"I still hop on horses though,” she said.
"I rode my mare yesterday, she went wonderful.”
FROM her own experience, Zoe felt she wasn't alone in struggling to find a pathway for a job on the land.
She started the group to draw more attention to her personal page, but it quickly took off.
"As soon as I started it up, a lot of people were interested in the group so I thought I could create a business to help support young kids,” she said.
"The end goal is to help fund and support people who can't afford to get into the industry.
"Then, I want to help the people who will excel in the industry and want to go further.”
Visiting schools is also on her agenda.
"From my own experience, when you hit the inner cities, people feel agriculture isn't as important - it's not being taught.
"That's where you get your lack of knowledge.
"I want to educate people correctly about the industry. Show them it's good fun and good pay and filled with genuine people.”
Eventually Zoe is hoping she will be supported through sponsorship, but at the moment she is making some money selling merchandise through the page.
The big audacious goal is to eventually buy a property which will provide hands-on training.
HEADING into the grain industry in Victoria, Zoe's next goal will be to save up to buy a vehicle that will allow her to travel north into cattle country.
"I want to experience as much as I can in agriculture as possible,” she said.
Search "Zoe Carter” on Facebook to follow her journey and, if you are a young person working in agriculture, join the group Young Aussie Farmers online today.