Wool vet­eran beats the odds

Pro­ducer learns to pave her own way through a tough in­dus­try

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - CHANTEL MCALIS­TER Truth About Wool Tour

MUCH-LOVED ru­ral pho­tog­ra­pher, and wool classer Chantel McAlis­ter is trav­el­ling Aus­tralia cap­tur­ing sto­ries for her Truth About Wool Tour, a self-funded jour­ney that aims to ac­cu­rately show the Aus­tralian wool in­dus­try from flock to fin­ish.

Her beau­ti­ful im­ages and factual videos have cap­ti­vated the na­tion, and now Chantel is shar­ing some of her sto­ries with the Ru­ral Weekly. Read Chantel’s words on Tas­ma­nian pro­ducer Gwen­dolyn Adams be­low:

Leigh­lands at Evan­dale, Tas­ma­nia is some­thing out of a travel brochure.

While sit­ting at Gwen­dolyn Adams’ kitchen ta­ble chat­ting over a cup of tea and an An­zac bikkie, we looked out over her rolling hill­sides at her meri­nos graz­ing and soak­ing up the warm sun.

Hay was scat­tered across the hill­tops. It was easy to see why Gwen­dolyn has made this beau­ti­ful slice of Tas­ma­nia her home.

It was the mid 1900s and Gwen­dolyn was liv­ing the life ex­pected of a fe­male of her time, mar­ry­ing young and work­ing in an of­fice.

Her life was turned up­side down at 30 years of age, when she was called back home to her fam­ily prop­erty, Leigh­lands.

Gwen­dolyn’s fa­ther had died and to keep her fam­ily firmly planted on their land, she had to step in and save it from be­ing sold off.

Although grow­ing up on a prop­erty (which she had left be­hind for 13 years), women of this gen­er­a­tion weren’t taught agri­cul­tural skills. This was a big job to take on.

It was learn as you go for Gwen­dolyn. This was met with plenty of doubt from oth­ers: how could a woman turn a farm around that had been ne­glected and un­eco­nomic and make it prof­itable again?

It was end­less days, a lot of guts and plenty of trial and er­ror.

Her com­pas­sion for an­i­mals made ev­ery death on her farm hard to take and she would ini­tially send ev­ery body for an au­topsy.

The re­sults were al­ways copped on the chin and turned into a valu­able les­son for Gwen­dolyn. Mis­takes may have been made once, but never twice.

“I fed acorns to my sheep a long time ago and all of them died. I sent them for an au­topsy and it would ap­pear that pigs can eat them but not sheep,” she said.

She now lives with her hus­band of 40 years, Viv, and still does a big chunk of the hands-on work.

Lamb­ing time is es­pe­cially busy at Leigh­lands and the ewes get ex­tra-spe­cial midwifery care.

The old horse sta­bles have been con­verted into a labour suite and nurs­ery for the lamb­ing ewes and new­borns.

Gwen­dolyn’s tire­less ef­forts and com­pas­sion for all of her sheep keep them safe from preda­tors and the chill of the Tas­ma­nian air.

The love and care she be­stows on her stock is paid back to her in the qual­ity wool they pro­duce for her each year.

Although very hum­ble when speak­ing of her ac­co­lades, one she speaks about with a lit­tle glint in her eye is the first time she en­tered a fleece into a show. She won the Re­serve Grand Cham­pion.

A nice lit­tle sur­prise for some­one who has never chased praise for her work, but a very proud achieve­ment all the same.

Her life has taken some less-than-or­di­nary turns and she has grown into the roles she was faced with.

Gen­der stereo­types never held her back, she has just al­ways done what needed to be done.

She has a deep love for her fam­ily and this is why she has done it all, to pro­vide for them and give them the best life she could. And that’s her whole at­ti­tude.

She just does what she does with no re­ward in sight.

Her many pres­ences on var­i­ous com­mit­tees are not for the praise, but for a greater agri­cul­tural in­dus­try. Her great­est love.

She is the found­ing mem­ber of Tas­ma­nian Women in Agri­cul­ture and mem­ber of more agri­cul­tural groups than you can poke a stick at – Land­care Tas­ma­nia, Parks and Wildlife, Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion, just to name a few.

Her ef­forts and con­tri­bu­tion to the agri­cul­tural sec­tor haven’t gone un­no­ticed.

She has picked up ac­co­lades over the years – the Or­der of Aus­tralia, Pride of Aus­tralia and Bob Hawke Land­care Award (again, just to name a few).

When asked why she does it both Viv and her­self agree, it’s ge­netic.

Its in your blood. It drives you. Although she never pic­tured her­self as a wool­grower in her ear­lier years, she couldn’t imag­ine her life any other way now and we are lucky to have her in our in­dus­try.

Thank you, Gwen­dolyn.


TRUTH ABOUT WOOL: Gwen­dolyn Adams from Leigh­lands at Evan­dale, Tas­ma­nia, shares her story with Chantel McAlis­ter.

Gwen­dolyn Adams has won sev­eral awards for her high-qual­ity wool.

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