When Tessa Cameron was growing up she didn’t see women at the saleyards. Today, along with fellow livestock assessor Katie Lewis, she says she’s seeing the number of women in the industry rise tenfold every year.
For both Tessa and Katie, it’s a love that runs deep. As a fourth generation stock agent, Tessa’s great-grandfather started his own business in Tumut in 1927, her grandfather joined after WWII and her father took over in 1984. It was where she was always going to be. After taking on a degree in Livestock Science at UNE, Tessa completed a Landmark Livestock Traineeship and after three years took on a role with Hart Rural Agencies in Barraba.
After growing up on a small farm near Howlong, NSW, Katie knew her future needed to be in agriculture and a gap year to the McDonald family cattle station in Far North Queensland sealed the deal. One year quickly turned into three and when she returned home she found work at the Corowa Sheep Sales and was picked up by Corcoran Parker. That was seven years ago and Katie says she can’t imagine doing anything else.
With a push for more and more online activity, the move into the livestock assessing world was a natural progression for both women. An essential skill to have in the toolkit, Katie says she was lucky to have some good mentors give her a push in the right direction. She names Trevor Parker and Dave Meehan as two strong influences.
“I was so lucky to have Trevor there to shape and guide me when I first started in the industry. He had high expectations and always pushed me to try hard and do better. I wouldn’t set the standards for myself that I do if it weren’t for him,” she says.
“Then the push for me to head down the path of assessing came from one of my other mentors, Dave Meehan. He recognised my attention to detail and ability to assess stock and pushed me down the AuctionsPlus path.
“I think it's so important for senior stock agents to take the young people under their wing like Dave and Trevor did for me. I have them to thank for a lot.”
Both women agreed that working with rural people and fostering relationships is one of the highlights of the job. In fact, making sure you leave enough time for a coffee and a chat was one of Trevor’s top tips, Katie says. For Tessa, it’s where she’s always wanted to be and the kick she gets out of helping people grow their business, and in turn, her business and job satisfaction is unmatched. And although it’s a tough call, Katie says a career highlight has to be having miniature Dexters featured on Landline.
“The other fellas at the yards certainly got a kick out of that,” she laughs.
“I’ve also been lucky to make the Top 5 in the AuctionsPlus assessors twice now. It's definitely tougher to achieve that result being from the south, as we just don’t have the bulk numbers the Northern agents do, so that was a pretty good feeling, to put the extra work in and get a bit of recognition for it.”
Their keen eye, creative mindset and innovative thought is seeing women ride a huge wave of recognition in the agricultural industry right now and both Tessa and Katie couldn’t be happier about it. Tessa admits it can be pretty daunting sometimes being a female in the industry but as more and more young women follow their passion and see themselves represented in every corner of the agricultural sector, she hopes it will give them the confidence they need to step up and give it a go.
Interestingly, both women gave the same two words as the best piece of advice they’ve been given in their career paths - back yourself.
“Trevor had a motto; ‘right is right, wrong is wrong, half right is still wrong,” Katie says.
“This is something I refer to every single day. I follow his motto, do it right, and if there’s ever a discrepancy, I know I can back myself.”