My Canadian Experience

Jacqueline Walker, 2018 Agriculture Scholar

On Sunday the 19th of May I travelled across the other side of the world to start my work placement in Canada for five and a half weeks. I worked on Blue Diamond Farms, which is owned by the Jochum family and is close to Winnipeg in Manitoba. I mainly worked with Fiona and Günter, by helping with the various jobs around the farm. They worked with Fiona’s Uncle who ran an Agricultural retail business. Working with this fun and talented family has really shown me what farming is like in Canada. From what I experienced, there are many similarities as well as differences when comparing Canada to Australia and learning these is why I wanted to go and experience a different way of living.

Before I get into my Canadian experience, I feel it is important to share how I got there. I’m the type of person who gets home sick quite easily and for me to leave my family, friends and everything I knew for five weeks was daunting. Especially since I was going overseas by myself for the first time to work. At one stage, I really considered giving the award back as I was very stressed with my studies and my Ag college isn’t equipped to offer the support for students going overseas. Without my partner, parents and Quintin Murphy, a previous BBM recipient, I would have struggled a lot more than I did. They helped me every step of the way and kept picking me up when I need it. I appreciate everything everyone did, as I had the time of my life.

Leading up to getting on the plane, I was a bundle of nerves but as the flight went on, I started to calm down and forget how nervous I was. The excitement that I was feeling really started to show. I knew I was going to be fine and have an experience I will never forget when I saw my host family standing their waiting for me with a sign that said, “Welcome Jacqueline Walker”. They welcomed me with open arms, and after just two days I really felt like everything was normal.

I arrived just a day after the Jochums had finished sowing, so some of the first things I did were the clean-up jobs after cropping. I had the pleasure of washing down the air seeder bar and air seeder bin. To do this job without getting drenched would be a miracle, every part of my clothing was soaked from head to toe. The picture really doesn’t do it any justice. I had mud on my clothes, face and in my hair but that just came with the job. The next time I saw that air seeder bar/bin, Fiona and I were greasing it. That was a job and a half, we had blue grease everywhere. Who says farming isn’t messy?

There were many difference and similarities that I discovered between our two amazing countries. The main one being, the growing season in Canada is much shorter than Australia’s growing season. Sowing begins in May and harvest finishes in September, depending on the crops they grow. I was so used to seeing wheat that was about to come into head and canola that had just started to blot that I was surprised, when I came home, to find the wheat was just above my ankles and the canola was only just starting to form a rosette. It was a little bit of a shock to realise how far behind Australia is even though we sow at the same time. However, the crops are still the same, they grow wheat, canola, oats and soy beans. Apart from soy beans, they are all crops you would find in my farming area.

Checking the paddocks with Fiona, I learnt so much about the problems they have in Canada. We may have different issues in Australia, such as insects and weeds, but the principals are the same. You still have to check the crop regularly, spray for pests, weeds and disease, apply fertilisers and then harvest the paddock. And once all of that is done, you turn around next year and do it all again. She taught me how to look through a crop and how to determine the cause of the problems we saw.

What was my overall highlight, you ask? It was the people I met and the places I got to see. I was extremely lucky to have a caring host family. By the end of my first day, I realised that Fiona had already planned out almost every weekend that I was there. She took me to social events that are very different from Australia and I got to see some breathtaking scenery. My favourite place I went was Clear Lake. I got to take some amazing photos and explore their national park. The Jochum family was very musical, the number of instruments they could play just baffled me. They took me to a few of their concerts and I could believe how talented they all were.

The Jochum family are heavily involved in the agricultural community in Canada. While I was there, both Fiona and Günter were invited to speak at conferences. Getting to watch and listen to what the whole family has accomplished, really made me consider what I have done and what I could strive to achieve in this industry. I now know, women are just as capable as men when it comes to running a farm. There may be different ways we need to do things, and it may take a little more time, but we can still do it. I remember one day Fiona and I were on the water truck, and shutting the back door was a little difficult. Unlike men, she had to use her whole body to shut the door. I have come back home with the belief that I can have a greater role in my family’s farm and be capable of doing the tasks given to me.

Another highlight of my trip was to experience driving on the opposite side of the road. I got to drive a GMC Sierra, among other things, around the farm. This would have made a few blokes I know very jealous! On my last day in Canada I challenged myself by driving into Winnipeg and then taking the bus into the city. Even at the best of times, I don’t drive in Melbourne nor do I take public transport by myself. Nevertheless, I went in, all on my lonesome and explored the city.

Without the support from my family, friends and the BBM Youth Support, I would never have had this opportunity to travel to the other side of the world. I would like to thank all those who helped me prepare for my amazing experience. It is one I won’t forget.

I am very proud of myself as I was successful in this adventure and had a ball along the way. I learnt so much about Canada and myself. My level of independence is significantly greater now, than before I left.

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