Farmer in Focus – Larissa Patton


Tell us about yourself and your farm.

Anthony and I farm at Gooroc, north of St Arnaud.

I grew up on a farm at Wycheproof and helped out in busy times. I studied Ag. Science before working for three years in England and America at a lamb feedlot, an agricultural research station milking sheep, and at a tourist attraction demonstrating sheep milking and shearing. They asked that the shearing demonstration last for 20 minutes, and since I had only learned to shear when I got that job, I had to shear as fast as I could.

I then did a season shearing full-time on ranches in the US, which I really loved, even if rousing would have resulted in a larger pay cheque at the end of each week.

Once home, I worked in various roles in the agricultural industry, including at BCG where I met Anthony.

How do you manage roles on the farm?

When we farmed with Anthony’s parents and employed a worker, I was able to be home with our daughters, Elsie (14) and Maeve (12), and then later work off-farm.

But since farming in our own right and also not replacing any staff, I’ve really enjoyed being able and having to step up, becoming more involved in the day-to-day operations rather than only doing the books.

I still work off-farm, on average a couple of days a week, and have a very flexible and understanding boss who lets me put the farm first during sowing and harvest.

Anthony and I shared the roles this harvest with header driving and the chaser bin. I don’t have a truck licence so Anthony didn’t have to share the truck driving.

This is the first year we’ve sown on our own without staff. We’ve established a system in the last week or two where I put out a load of spray while Anthony gets the seeder ready, then I sow while he continues to spray. I’m much like a shearer who only comes in for the long blow.

How do you juggle the farm, off-farm work and family? Do you have any tricks you can share with us?

‘Juggle’ is a fairly apt term. It’s doable because our girls are older.

I’ve also learned which of the juggling balls I’m prepared to drop. Housework is the main one. We both accept that we can only do so much in one day—that way we don’t get stressed about what isn’t done; it can’t be helped.

Cooking follows closely behind. On the days we walk in at bed time, we’re happy to eat porridge for tea.

Kids and their activities always come first.

What do you enjoy about farming?

I really enjoy the pressure during a good harvest, seeing the culmination of the year’s work.

I love working with Anthony and living on the farm.

I love the steep learning curve. For example, when Janine rang from BCG last week to talk about this, I was having my first day on the air seeder and had to stop the machine because I couldn’t concentrate on the sequence of steps at the start of the next run and speak to her on the phone at the same time.

After a week and plenty of chances to strengthen the neural pathways in my brain at the start and end of each run, I can now speak on the phone and turn at the fence line simultaneously.

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