In celebration of our Australian Cotton Collection, we caught up with Bill Back, a Farm Manager for Auscott Australia’s cotton farm, in Narrabri NSW. We had the privilege of meeting Bill on our cotton field visit earlier this year!
How long have you been living in Narrabri, working for Auscott?
Just shy of 7 years. 5 years as an agronomist and 2 years now as Farm Manager. Auscott grows cotton in 4 valley’s of NSW and has its own ginning, classing and warehousing facilities.
How does someone become an Agronomist, and how did you find yourself in the Cotton Industry?
I did a 4 year bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Queensland, Gatton campus. Ioriginally did university work placement on another corporate cotton farm and loved it, and later completed my honours project on cotton as well. The drought broke in the winter of 2010, opening up a position with Auscott.
What are a few examples of how the weather might impact your day, your season, or your year?
Cold weather in October can delay planting until it is warm enough for the cotton to grow. Periods of wet weather give us less chance to complete our farming operations (planting, fertilising, land preparation etc), we have to put more resources into a job to get it done on time. Farming is about completing work during a window of opportunity with the weather. Timing isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!
What might a regular work day look like for you?
I start work at 7am at the workshop, with the farmhands, supervisors and workshop staff. It’s a great chance to have a coffee and a laugh, finalise any work plans for the day and pass on any information to the staff. From there I’m out spending time in the paddock, checking crops and the progress of the farming operations. There is something different happening on the farm every month of the year and no two seasons are the same, there is never a dull moment. Afternoons are where I do my office work or have any meetings with people (that sounds a little dull though!).
What do you love most about your job?
Growing the cotton crop is the most rewarding part. You do your best to manage the crop through different growing conditions each year, and then you put a cotton picker in the paddock and see what the result is.
You’ve been a host on the Cotton Australia fashion farm tour for a few years now, and we found you to be a fabulous source of information on the day. Why do you think it’s an important event?
Australian Cotton is an amazing product, it’s great to have end users come and see how it is produced.
What is your observation, on the benefits of this tour, and what do you enjoy the most from the day?
First hand information for the Australian fashion industry on cotton production. The visitors get to see everything and can ask any questions about how we grow the crop. I enjoy watching the fashionistas walk into the crop for the first time, everyone reacts so differently. That aside you meet a great bunch of people who are passionate about the work they do as well.
What’s one thing we might not know about Australian Cotton?
Australian cotton growers produce more crop per drop than any other cotton producing nation in the world.
What’s one thing we might not know about the Australian Cotton Industry, and its reputation for being a collaborative industry?
Farmers love Twitter, it’s a great way to share what is happening in your patch! A lot of information is shared on Twitter from all over the cotton industry.
What do you like to do in your down time in Narrabri, when you’re not working?
Motorbike riding and touch football. Spending time with my wife Skye and 2 young boys Lachlan (3.5 years) and Ethan (18 months). My boys love being outside riding on the motorbike or go cart and playing with our chooks, dog, cockatoo and lamb. We are actively involved in our local ACC church and enjoy spending time with family and friends.