Year 12 student, Jack Kelly, has been messing around on farms all his life. He has also been saving his money for years and last October he leased 90 acres of irrigated land at Murrabit where he now runs 30 cows, most with calves, and nine yearlings he is fattening up to sell at the Swan Hill stock yards.
“I can buy a cow and calf for $1400 and if I fatten up the calf, can sell it for $1000,” he says.
While any young person taking up such challenges is to be admired, Jack is also legally blind.
“I get a bit of help from my grandfather, whose farm is next door to mine,” he says. “Other family and friends also keep an eye on things while I’m down in Bendigo at BSSC.”
Still, getting into farming is a very expensive business if you have to start from scratch.
“The only easy way is to inherit the family farm,” Jack says, “so I began by saving up as much money as I could, leasing the land and buying a small herd.
“I’ve also now got my grandfather’s water-right, but because of the low river I’m only allowed to use about 40 percent of it this year. The biggest challenge for the future is water security and the price of water, but my plan is to have 100 cows by the time I’m 21 and 1000 by the time I’m 30.”
Meanwhile, back at the college, Jack has naturally selected subjects likely to help him with his future plans, including VET Ag Studies which he says is his favourite subject.
“Even though I grew up on a farm, VET Ag covers areas I haven’t known about before, like soil testing and weather,” Jack explains. “I’d like to do pasture agronomy for work experience. Maybe I’ll go to TAFE—I’m still not sure.”
Jack is also studying VET Auto and is enjoying learning how to repair motors.
“Everything I learn is transferable,” he says. “At the moment we’re looking at batteries and electronics.
“My eyesight is really poor for distance and I found reading hard throughout school, and often felt like the work was too hard,” Jack admits. “Although I’ve had good teachers and always had great friends.
“On the farm I drive a tractor, but not for jobs like air seeding. I can feed out bales of hay and drive a ute around, but can’t get my license to drive on the road. That’s actually the hardest thing—not having a license.”
Managing school and running a farm does not leave a lot of time for other interests, but whenever the weather is good and there is time, Jack likes to do a bit of camping, fishing and shooting.
Asked what advice he would offer his 12 year-old self, Jack’s message is a positive one. “When you have a bad day at school, don’t get stressed about it. It’s all trivial stuff. Tomorrow will be fine. I’d also tell myself that life only gets more complex, so while something at school seems so hard, it’s actually the easy bit.”