Wool veteran beats the odds
Producer learns to pave her own way through a tough industry
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.