The litigating grazier, an elegant juxtaposition.


“Don’t be a farmer”.

This was the rhetoric of my childhood, growing up on a historical beef, dairy and cropping property. I grew up watching the financial, physical and mental toll deregulation of the dairy industry, and then the millennium drought had on my parents.

“Pick a career that’s financially viable”.

Coupled with my – and my father’s – battle with the Black Dog, I was put off going back to the land. The trials and tribulations we had endured as a family were too great, so I willingly – and seemingly happily – took heed of my parents’ warning, and embarked on a career as a lawyer.

“What makes you happy?”

I thrived (and like to think I still do) in my role as a lawyer – the experiences I have had, and the knowledge I have gained is unparalleled. Notwithstanding my passion for the law, and knowledge of the difficulties associated with a life on the land; it was through treatment for my Black Dog that I came to realise that the material driver behind my thoughts, feelings and actions, was due to my love of the land – because nothing makes me happier than working with cattle, and nurturing soil or plants.

“But, you’re a lawyer.”

Navigating the harmony between a career in law and life as a grazier has its moments, and many people outside my circle of influence have been surprised by the juxtaposition that is the two professions. On face value, one would agree – however as I evolve in reach career, I realise just how many skills are interchangeable. My ability to read clients or opponents in the courtroom, has come from my aptitude in reading livestock. The patience I have for teaching and encouraging next generation lawyers and agribusiness professionals, has come from working with livestock in the ‘patch work quilt’ that has been our timber cattle yards at home (which are only still standing thanks to tin sheeting and many a Cobb & Co Hitch). And the ability to find quick, tangible solutions to complex legal issues, has evolved from the requirement to make economic, ‘temporary-permanent’ fixes to broken yards or equipment on the farm.

“Elegant to watch. Silent and calm”.

During a recent sabbatical from the law, my parents commented on just how silent and calm I am in the cattle yards. I savour every sound, every movement, and every sight – because it’s a world away from phone calls, emails and court deadlines. Notwithstanding my preference for rural life, I know that it’s the corporate world that will ensure that I have dirt on my hands, and hopefully cattle in the paddocks, for the rest of my life.

Significantly, I am not alone. My closest friends, and many young agribusiness professionals around Australia, are donning the corporate hat at the same time as the Akubra, and utilising their professional and agricultural skills interchangeably.

That is the elegance of our generation – we embrace the juxtaposition between corporate agribusiness and primary production – because it’s how we operate, and how we are creating a more resilient and dynamic agricultural industry.

Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent article from FFN Chair Caitlin McConnel

FFN caitlin