A fond farewell to agriculture (for now) after six wonderful years

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Countryman editor Cally Dupe.
Camera IconCountryman editor Cally Dupe. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

There was a defining moment in the weeks after I accepted a job at the Countryman in early 2017 that made my now-late father gravely concerned for my career prospects as a rural reporter.

In the middle of a scorching summer, driving together down a road in the South West, I spotted a paddock full of vibrant yellow and asked him enthusiastically: “is that canola?”

Nope… it was capeweed. Beautiful, floral, ground hugging, pasture-ruining capeweed.

After a horrified look and a calm correction from my Mt Barker farm-raised father, I was nearly turfed from the car.

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To be fair, I had never actually seen the beauty of a canola crop in full bloom in June or July and having grown up in the Kimberley had next to no concept of the State’s cropping calendar.

Countryman editor Cally Dupe.
Camera IconCountryman editor Cally Dupe. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

The perfect hire as Countryman newspaper’s newest grain reporter? Probably not, but I was excited and very eager to learn.

In the weeks that followed, I started to learn all about the world of broadacre farming I’d caught snippets of during five years at boarding school with plenty of country kids in Perth.

It was a whole new world.

I will always feel thankful for my friends’ siblings and parents — particularly David Beard from Cunderdin — who became a sounding board for the many questions I was too embarrassed to ask of new-found contacts.

“Why’s it called a CBH ‘bin’?”

“Is ‘dredge’ the right phrase for cleaning out a dam?”

“Does anyone care if a ewe gives birth to triplets?”

“Where is wheat, barley and canola actually grown in WA?”

I feel so thankful to the farmers that never made me feel silly and were more than happy to explain.

For those that saw me waddling around WA’s agricultural field days this year, it wasn’t too many visits to the spud van — I started maternity leave on December 4 as my husband Rourke and I are extremely fortunate to be welcoming a Christmas baby!

Wrapping things up and saying farewell to contacts during the past few months has prompted plenty of reflection on how truly wonderful the past six years at the Countryman have been.

I know I’m so annoying to be so enthusiastic about work (I promise it is often hard, wildly stressful and tiring — with a lot of time away from home) but being an ag journo is such a great job.

As a boarder in Perth, the Wheatbelt kids had impressive and innate farming knowledge — almost as if they were part of some kind of club us northern kids couldn’t quite understand.

After starting at Countryman, it quickly became clear this was not agriculture’s intention, and the industry and those within it are more than happy to share.

During the past six years, I have absolutely loved the phone calls and pictures from farmers across WA — showcasing pictures of crops, sunsets, farm f...ups, kids, sheep, cattle, dogs, and other snippets of fun that have landed in our inboxes.

I will miss the random phone calls from farmers just wanting to share how harvest and the season is travelling at their place, or the latest piece of industry gossip that’s being discussed over fences.

When I return to Kununurra, my interest and appreciation for local farmers growing horticultural produce and the pastoralists on stations is huge.

Learning more about their southern counterparts while working at Countryman has opened my eyes to the challenges farmers across our diverse landscape in Australia face.

Entering the world of broadacre farming was a big change and at first I truly wondered what on earth I would write about.

On June 5, 2017, I took to my personal Facebook to recount how things were going.

At six months in, my interest in the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley’s council dramas was waning, and my passion for wheat and sheep was growing like a crop after 30mm of rain.

“I thought I couldn’t love another news patch the same way I loved the Kimberley, but I have met some really interesting, kind, and friendly farmers of late,” the post said.

“During a recent afternoon inspecting crops with some rough-and-tumble blokes, listening to their banter about looking like a boy band called ‘The Canola Brothers’, it dawned on me — I am really starting to enjoy this farming business.”

A few months later, I drove home with a home-baked banana bread and a bottle of homemade wine (the first from Brookton farmers Anna and Colin Butcher and the second from Ray and Les Marshall at Pingelly) and thought “farmers are great people”.

And as a female rolling around regional WA in a Toyota Camry, clocking up to 1000km per week, not once have I felt unsafe.

Instead, I have felt respected, accepted, and welcomed while visiting WA farms and farmers.

But it has not all been about farm visits and home-baked goods.

I’m very proud of what our team has been able to achieve during the past six years and feel we have been able to lift the bar and boost the competitiveness of regional journalism in WA.

I can’t stress enough how truly important it is to have media strength, competition and diversity in regional areas.

All of our reporters truly love and believe in what they do and we feel so lucky to share the stories of the people who live in and work so hard to make regional WA work — in all aspects.

You really have to push a lot harder in the country to get the things easily taken for granted in the city and I have tried my best (while living a hypocritical Perth life that often feels… awfully hypocritical) to remember that and help regional WA as much as I can.

I’ll be back in some capacity at some stage, and am so looking forward to this next adventure.

But for now — regional journalism is the best journalism and I could not believe that more.

Cally Dupe is the editor of the Countryman newspaper and about to become a first-time Mum.

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