Role Reversals

Jessica Horstman has become a role model for other female farmers.

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Jessica's grandparents purchased Mulga Springs, near Northampton in Western Australian in 1950. When her grandfather died suddenly in a car accident, her father, Chris returned home from jackarooing to take over the farm. In 1983, he established the Mulga Springs Poll Merino stud and today, Chris and his three daughters work together in the family business.

FATHER… AND DAUGHTERS

While it's common enough to see fathers and sons in business, the third generation of farmers on Mulga Springs is made up solely of daughters.

"You always see farming businesses' names with 'so and so & son'," Jessica says.

"Well, Dad and Mum only have three daughters, so we thought we may as well put '& daughters' up there!"

Mulga Springs

For Jessica, she's gained a great deal from watching her father build the business over time.

"I'd really like to keep carrying on what Dad started because he's just worked so hard."

"You don’t have to be extraordinary. You just have to try." - Jessica Horstman

While there are men working on the farm, it's the women who are the farmers.

Jessica's husband, Rob spent his childhood at Bristol in England and now works in a pharmaceutical company.

"Rob is really supportive but he's definitely not a farmer," chuckles Jessica. But after seven years, Rob is starting to see how living on the land "can get into your blood."

Fortunately for Jessica, he's as comfortable in the pub having a few beers with the blokes as he is attending a meeting at the local childcare association.

It's these role reversals that have allowed Jessica and Rob to work together.

BRINGING UP BABY

For Jessica, returning to farm work after having her first child was a challenge in need of a creative solution. With a six-week-old in tow, she and Rob were keen to see if they could somehow make it work.

"We put the bassinet in the tractor and she would sleep for four hours while I was putting a crop in," says Jessica. A clever sling was used for breastfeeding while she drove the tractor.

Mulga Springs

Jessica admits that her daughter was amazing and concedes that farming is often hard work, explaining how even her knock-off time can depend on whether she can somehow muster the cooperation of an unruly flock of sheep.

"The sheep don’t understand that you told your husband you'd be home by five o'clock and that your kids are expecting you to read them a bedtime story," says Jessica.

Despite the hard work, Jessica is adamant that women make successful farmers.

"There is this perception that you need to be really tough, that you need to be a bit manly to be a farmer," says Jessica. "I just want people to see, men and women, that it's possible."

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