Chickens began long RAS link

Danella BevisCountryman

Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) stalwart Jim Webster is just as enthusiastic about all things agriculture now as he was the day his father brought home a "barrel full of ducklings" when he was a small child.

The passionate advocate of the industry first joined as a member of the RAS in 1961, was elected to council five years later and only retired from his position in July this year after serving a whopping 46 years as a councillor, making him one of the RAS' longest serving.

The 79-year-old spent 30 years promoting local meat exports throughout the world with the Craig Mostyn Group. He also travelled to Paris, Morocco and across North Africa promoting Australian agricultural exports during five years at the Australian Trade Commission.

Jim first started breeding chickens in 1960 before exhibiting them for about 10 years at the Perth Royal Show and later became RAS councillor-in-charge of poultry.

He served as RAS president from 1987-89 which, according to media reports at the time, were three demanding years of change in which Royal Show attendance numbers increased markedly.

In 1993, Jim was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to agriculture and also in the early 1990s, the Jim Webster Pavilion at the Claremont Showground was named in his honour.

"I've had an affinity with aspects of agriculture all of my life and it is something that constantly needs promoting and I'm all for contributing wherever I can," he said.

"The promotion of agriculture is something that I have had a belief in for many, many years since I started hand-milking cows at nine years of age.

"That's what the RAS is all about - the promotion of agriculture - and let's hope it never changes."

Jim said initiatives like the Yellow Brick Road, which about 16,000 families participated in this year, were extremely important for WA's future generations.

He said letting children have a go at milking a cow, giving them their own hands-on experience and the chance to see how milk was produced was a tremendous idea.

"It's an aspect of education for the younger generation that the RAS can be very proud of," he said.

The poultry enthusiast still gets a kick out of breeding his Australian Langshan chickens on his Jandakot property with wife Margaret and continues his involvement with the RAS.

He describes agriculture as "one of those things that I've always felt is so much a part of Australia's lifestyle" and commended the producers who made the trip each year to exhibit their animals at the Show.

"The ongoing support we're getting is particularly noticeable this year when it is so jolly expensive for exhibitors to come from the country with a truckload of animals," he said.

"We're very appreciative of the support we're getting from farmers.

"You only have to visit the country shows - and I've visited most of them over the years - to see the support the farming fraternity gives them, including the Royal Show. It is just tremendous."

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