Saskatchewan Farm Girl Goes Aussie

Posted in: Global Ag     

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For Carissa Kapeluck, a trip to Australia sounded way better than post-secondary education. After completing high school in 2007, she met a fellow from Australia who was looking for people
to work with the Australian Barley Board.

“I thought that was a pretty good opportunity and said I’d do it. The next thing I knew they were sending emails, I had to fill out some forms and I had a job,” says Kapeluck, who grew up
on a family farm near Quill Lake, Sask.

From loading an ocean freighter at a grain terminal near Adelaide, to scuba diving with sharks and sky diving near the Great Barrier Reef, this Saskatchewan farm girl’s Australian exchange was a trip of a lifetime

“That was easy enough. They had everything set up for me when I got over there, for living arrangements and so on.”

Kapeluck says she has helped out on the 4,800-acre farm her dad Terrance and brother Lane currently operate for as long as she can remember.

“Building bins, pouring concrete, operating equipment – anything that needed to be done. dad and Mom expected us to help and we expected to help them,” she says.

“I started hauling grain when I was 12 and absolutely loved it. I think it was grade eight when I decided I wanted to marry a farmer. I always wanted to farm.”

When she arrived in Australia in November 2007, her first stop was at the ABB head office in Adelaide. “That was more of an office job, for about ten days. Then I went to a waterside terminal at Ceduna in South Australia, followed by Port Lincoln for six weeks. Next I went inland, to a terminal at Roseworthy, for three weeks. Then I went to Bordertown for two weeks and back to the Adelaide terminal for two weeks,” says Kapeluck.

“The ABB would be like the Canadian Wheat Board, but they have terminals and most of them are by the water. Farmers in Australia don’t have onsite storage. They haul everything from the
combine to the terminals. Our job was to store the grain, market the grain and move the grain.”

Once the terminals get filled, the grain goes on the ground on bunker sites, covered with tarps. “They started me off in the weigh bridge. I was weighing trucks when they came in and left . I’d sample grain, but I wasn’t grading it. When I moved to Port Lincoln, they had me loading and unloading trucks and trains. In Adelaide, I got to sit in on loading a ship,” she says.

While she worked with the barley board, she also handled wheat and oats. Accommodations were taken care of by the ABB.

“They were unbelievable in that aspect. Anywhere I went, they had a place for me to stay. I had a vehicle when I needed one. Accommodations ranged from a waterfront apartment in Port Lincoln, to a hostel in Adelaide, hotels and bunking in with a fellow employee from the ABB.”

After four months with the ABB, Kapeluck worked at a National Park for three months, took a few casual jobs, then helped out on a 23,000-acre grain and sheep farm. She managed to get in on some seeding and harvesting, plus everything to do with sheep.

“They crop about 6,000 acres a year, depending on the rains. The rest is used to feed around 4,000 sheep,” she says.

“I’d never ever dealt with sheep before. I learned everything they do, from crutching time, to shearing, to mulesing the lambs. That was pretty good.”

Kapeluck says the farms in that part of Australia don’t grow crops like western Canadian farmers do. “If they get a 20 bushel crop, they’re happy. I told the family I was with that my dad got 150 bushels per acre of oats and they couldn’t believe it,” she says.

“They don’t have snow to deal with for harvest, so it’s not a big rush. Instead, they have a ‘cool change’ to deal with. Down by the beach, they get maybe four hours of combining in a day because the cool change comes in and everything gets too damp.” Getting permits to work legally in Australia wasn’t a problem.

"I came to work one Monday and was told I was going to dive with the sharks on Friday."

“All I had to do was apply for a working holiday visa, which is good for a year. The only restrictions are you can’t work for the same employer for more than six months. And if you want to 

get another working visa, you have to do specified work in certain areas of the economy,” says Kapeluck. “I did it on the Internet and by the next day I had my visa. The second time I did it over the Internet, I had my visa approved in five minutes. It’s easy. Anyone can do it.”

While she was employed for much of the year she was there, it wasn’t all work and no play. “In Port Lincoln, I mentioned I’d heard you could go diving with the sharks there. I came to work one Monday and was told I was going to dive with the sharks on Friday. They paid for my dive package and it was unbelievable,” she says.

“They put you in a cage and you end up in the water with these great white sharks around you. The biggest ones were 18 feet long, and they were huge. They come from nowhere when you’re down there, and disappear as fast as they come. That was something to see.”

“I spent some time in Brisbane, but it was a pretty busy city. And Sydney was way too busy for me. Mission Beach, a couple hours south of Cannes, was unbelievable. It was tropical, and you’d look for fi e miles and there was only five people. That was a little piece of heaven. And I did some skydiving, where you could see the Great Barrier Reef. I really enjoyed it.”

If other Canadian farm kids are thinking about taking part in an agricultural exchange, Kapeluck says she’d definitely tell them to take advantage of it. “You get to see a side of Australia that most tourists don’t. I got to see the real Australia instead of just the beaches. I think it’s a great opportunity, and from there you can go see the rest of Australia,”
she says.

“They’re amazing people. I thought we had a reputation for being nice, but we’ve got nothing on Australians.”

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About the Author
Bill Strautman

Bill Strautman is an ag journalist with more than three decades of experience in the western Canadian agriculture industry. Originally from a mixed farm in north-west Saskatchewan, Bill has lived and worked in all three prairie provinces.

He currently owns a fifth-generation century farm east of North Battleford.

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