Our unexpected meeting with what before it’s run in with the front of our car was a rather large western red kangaroo was obviously not the ideal start to our day with the Facey Group, however as has often been the case over the years Wifey and I did our best to make the best of a less than perfect situation.
After a somewhat frustrating call with an insurance company based in Sydney who’s representative had no idea in relation to the geography of WA I got hold of local tow truck driver who incredibly was with us within 20 mins of making the call. While Dave’s size would have seen him not look out of place in a WWF wrestling ring his imposing presence belied an incredibly good nature with Dave at one point offering Wifey and I a spare vehicle he had if we were unable to secure a hire car to get out to Wickepin.
Our run of good luck continued in terms of the people we came across that morning with an incredibly affable panel shop owner agreeing that while his business wouldn’t be fixing our car he was happy for it sit in his yard until it could be collected.
As a result of this spate of unexpected assistance it was a mere two hours after first impact with one of the Mundaring State Forest’s residents that we found ourselves in a hire car back on the road to the Facey Group’s Women in Agriculture day.
Procurement of the hire car to my mind was the funniest experience of the day (although the ‘after party’ some of the Wickepin ladies organised came close) and as such is deserving of a couple of paragraphs.
On a tip from the world’s friendliest tow truck driver we were directed to a car rental company which was conveniently located across the road from the world’s most affable panel shop owner and where we were quickly provided with a reasonably old if not very serviceable Hyundai Sonata. Having signed the relevant paperwork we were taken on the obligatory walk around the car to check for existing damage and given the spiel around “Only wear and tear damage is covered under your rental agreement and please bring it back with a full tank of fuel”.
It was at this point that the script deviated from what I am used to experiencing when picking a hire car up from my preferred supplier AVIS.
World’s most forthright car rental employee (WMFCRE) – “We normally also tell our customers that they are not allowed to do anything illegal using our cars”
Me- “Is that a common problem?”
WMFCRE – “Oh yes, we were hoping to give you the Holden Captiva however it is very popular with the local drug dealers as it looks like a family car and is less suspicious”
Me (feeling somewhat gob smacked) – “We’ll do our best to behave.”
WMFRE – “I didn’t think you two would be a problem based on how you are dressed (reasonably smart jeans and a collared shirt in my case) but thought it was worth mentioning.”
Wifey – “Glad to hear it….”
The drive down to Wickepin take two was uneventful in comparison to our first attempt however it did see us arrive a mere 15 mins before Wifey was due to take part in the panel session. Our arrival also gave me the first chance to meet Sarah and Bronwyn from the Facey Group who were incredibly welcoming and seemed completely non-plussed in relation to our LastMinute.com arrival.
Based on the amount of questions the panel discussion generated it could only be heralded as a huge success and while there were several comments that stuck in my mind one from Jodi Duncan who farms with her brother near Albany stood out. Jodi quite simply said something a long the lines of “While panels with women who are farming are good I look forward to the day when it is just a normal occurrence and not such a novelty to have women like us working the land.” I thought this was a very insightful comment and one that resonated with everyone in attendance.
The theme of the day was Dare to Be Different with it being fair to say as one of only three men in a room of 120 people I gained a quick appreciation of one of the many meanings that title could represent. My slot was after lunch and while I have no doubt that the food was amazing based on how it looked I have to admit to being a bit too nervous to truly enjoy it although that certainly didn’t stop me downing 2 or 3 cheeky glasses of red in an attempt to furnish myself with some Dutch courage.
As it turned out my first speaking engagement based entirely on DOAFH seemed to go down quite well with the biggest laugh being achieved by my first ever original farming joke (See blog below).
One of the things I have come to appreciate since being involved in farming is spending time on the main street of Northampton after there has been some decent rainfall. You can literally feel the optimism emanating from the small business owners in town and the smiles on people’s faces as they go about their daily business.
The rain that had been predicted as I was finishing off my last Blog did eventuate and we picked up three inches in a couple of weeks. To say this was timely is somewhat of an understatement as ‘Dry July’ took on a whole new meaning in the Midwest this year with one of the lowest rainfall totals ever recorded for the middle month of winter.
It was while contemplating the amount of rain that we had got in August and all that this meant that I had an idea for my first ‘farm based’l joke.
I could think of no better place to give it a test run so please be gentle…..
Q. How do you pick the farmer’s wife out of a group of women chatting over lunch?
A. She’s the only one satisfied with getting two and a half inches overnight.
The final speaker of the day was Clare Merrifield from Rabobank in Narrogin who gave a fantastic presentation on being a female working in the world of agribusiness. To me this basically means she is working in not one but two of the most male dominated industries in the form of banking and agriculture with her anecdote from her time working overseas which saw her proposed to by a potential client rather than being offered the business being the highlight of the day for me.
Having been a huge fan of the “After Party” since spending a summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival hanging out with my then moderately famous Uncle it didn’t take me long to identify the ‘naughty table’ from the day’s proceedings. Unsurprisingly they did have a plan for the evening and as a result WIfey and I spent a few fun-filled (and in my case alcohol fueled) hours at the Wickepin Hotel chewing the fat with a fantastic group of local ladies.
I will be forever grateful for their incredibly positive feedback suggesting I should write a book or at the very least take my DOAFH show on the road and speak at small country towns all over WA although from memory both those comments came towards the end of the night when vodka Red Bulls were on the menu….
I mentioned how flattered I was to be asked to speak at this event when the opportunity first came up and this is a feeling that has only increased having been a part of what is a truly fantastic event that carries with it a strong heritage. Everyone involved with the Facey Group should be commended for putting together what was an incredibly relevant and educational program for women (and the odd man) in agriculture.
It is unlikely that I will ever have enough material to warrant another speaker spot however I might try and wheedle my way into an MC gig as attendance at a Facey Group Women in Agriculture Day is an experience well worth repeating.