In celebration of our Australian Cotton Collection, we caught up with Jessica Lehmann, Jess grew up in Narrabri NSW and is a 2017 Australian Cotton Industry Young Farming Champion.
What is your first memory of farming cotton?
My first memory of cotton was as a pre-schooler, when my father would take me to work with him for the day. I was very blessed to be raised as the daughter of one of the cotton industry’s most passionate, innovative, skilled and loving men – Mr Chris Lehmann. Safe to say cotton runs in the family, my father left a legacy of being the first independent cotton consultant in Australia and my grandfather Vic Melbourne, was one of the first pioneers to farm cotton in North West NSW in the 1960s.
What was it like growing up on a cotton farm, in a regional community?
Growing up on the land, and in the heart of cotton growing, no day was ever the same! Farming communities are the backbone of every country town. I personally embrace everyone’s stories and am so proud of my own agricultural background and family history. Grandad Vic has had his life published in a book this year, which really shows how strong the rural spirit is.
When did you know you were to become a farmer?
No surprises, growing up as a farmer’s daughter has a pretty strong influence! Being surrounded by family and friends involved in different aspects of agriculture was absolutely the biggest influence for my career choice in the industry. My career goal is to help show urban Australia the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the people who produce the food they eat and the clothes they wear.
What might a regular work day look like for you? We Imagine it’s quite diverse.
Diversity in my everyday life is an understatement – that’s what I love about this industry! On the farm, it is a daylight to dusk commitment, especially come cotton picking time. Even though my background has been in cotton, I have also worked in agriculture research projects that have produced sustainable and ethical outcomes that are now available for farmers. Recent projects include production of environmentally friendly pest control measures, and reductions in greenhouse emissions from grazing animals. These projects made me thankful for my boots in the muddy fields, headphones, 80’s rock music, and fly-spray! I told you it was diverse – especially for a young woman!
What do you love most about your job?
Besides the hands on bits, I love sharing the story of agriculture. I’m so excited and proud to have been selected as a Cotton Young Farming Champion. This is run by Art4Agriculture, with support from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and Cotton Australia. The program identifies bright young agricultural minds who are working in the industry to promote positive images and perceptions of farming.
Who is your role model, and why?
I think its fair to say I have a few role models, starting with Grandad Vic, for his pioneering spirit and determination – he’s 87 now and still works a full day on the property. Of course, my late father for also continuing the pioneering spirit, not only as a farmer, but as a passionate cotton industry agronomist. Dad’s best friend, Dr Robert Mensah has also been inspirational for his research work into the sustainability of the cotton industry for the future.
In the coming years, what difference do you hope to make to the industry as a young farmer?
Being a motivated youth in agriculture, I hope to be able to influence younger generations to consider a career in cotton production and agriculture.
What’s one thing we might not know about Australian Cotton?
There’s millions of things you might not know! In an average year, Australia’s cotton growers produce enough cotton to clothe 500 million people. A single 227 kg bale can produce 215 pairs of jeans, and since we produce 15,000 bales a year at our place, that’s 3.2 million pairs of jeans from our farm alone!
What do you like to do in your own time, when you’re not working?
I enjoy being outdoors, going on hikes, tennis, photography, driving around the farm and spending time with friends and family. I’m certainly excited and confident about the future of Australian agriculture, so I also love telling the story of the industry on my social media platforms as well. Check out my Twitter and Instagram to find out more.
I’d like to thank you all for buying clothes made from Australian Cotton, as it helps my family farm and others around Australia to clothe the growing population.