Passionate and driven, Jessica is a leader in precision agriculture, using her knowledge and expertise to help farms reach their full potential – including the grain and merino wool properties she runs alongside her husband Joe and his parents Robert and Joyleen. With farms near Booleroo Centre and Georgetown, Jessica recently launched their consulting business – Breezy Hill Precision Ag Services – is the immediate-past President of the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia, and through the Upper North Ladies On The Land, plays a pivotal role in up-skilling rural women with technical information about agriculture. Farming is in her blood – and while she spent her childhood growing up in the nearby town of Crystal Brook, her mum came from a farm in Booleroo and her dad was a stock agent. Before embracing farm life, she gained a Degree in Agriculture and a Diploma in Teaching. She is also a mum to three children and is truly happy upon feeling a sense of achievement and with a content and healthy household.
When asked what concerned her about the health, safety and wellbeing of those in rural industries and communities, Jessica said a real concern was fatigue while driving long distances – particularly given the family farms are up to 80km apart. To mitigate the risk, they plan overnight stays to avoid long drives and schedule days off to reduce fatigue. Jessica is also concerned about the safety of children on farms. A combination of modifications to infrastructure (such as guards around silos), yard maintenance to ensure visibility and non-negotiable rules about children around machinery helps to reduce the risk. “There is never a time when a machine can be moving if a child is out the cab,” Jessica said. When it comes to enabling safety-related change, Jessica recommends discussing it in a formal setting, such as a meeting. “Make simple adjustments and make them meaningful. Usually, if others can see a reason for the change then they will jump on board.”
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Passionate, driven and creative.
Tell us something interesting about yourself...
I grew up in Crystal Brook and am the eldest of four children. Although I grew up in the town, I spent most of my childhood riding horses, climbing trees, camping and playing sport. My mum grew up on a farm in Booleroo (which her family still own and run), and my father was a stock agent (now a precision agriculture consultant), so farming has always been in my blood.
After completing a degree in agriculture and a Diploma in Teaching, I got engaged to Joe. We are lucky enough to live on his family’s property, north of Booleroo Centre.
Before having kids, I was able to help Joe with hands-on roles at busy times of the year, in between working as Precision Ag Consultant for a John Deere dealership for six years. Although it’s difficult to do things like drive machinery now we have small children, I look forward to getting back to some of these tasks when the kids are a little older and it is safe for them to be out helping more.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Our three children – Charlie, Ted and Florence – are by far my greatest achievement.
I am also proud of how far Joe and I have been able to grow our farming business, and just recently start a consulting business in precision agriculture.
What makes you truly happy?
A sense of achievement and a content, healthy and happy household. I am a firm believer that to be happy, there always has to be something on the horizon to look forward to.
What do you love the most about being a rural woman?
The variety and the autonomy. It’s awesome that I’m able to apply my knowledge to something useful and productive here on the farm. Of course, the lifestyle and the community are wonderful too, and we are very lucky to be raising our children among like-minded families, who are looking to grow their farming businesses to be as professional and as productive as possible.
Tell us about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing.
Of particular concern is the amount of driving we do. Road accidents and fatigue are a huge risk to our family, so this is something we are continually trying to monitor and assess. This may include staying over at the other property to reduce late-night driving. Days off are also something we are constantly working on to not only ensure a work/life balance, but also a fresh mindset at work.
In terms of my children, the thought of them drowning and being run over often keep me awake at night. We are constantly finding ways to mitigate and eliminate these very real risks.
What practical things did - or could - you or someone else do to prevent yourself or someone else from getting hurt?
We’ve put guards around the bottom of silo bins to prevent climbers. All troughs and pods now have mesh guards on them or are empty.
If children go in machinery cabs, they must have an adult with them at all times, that’s a non-negotiable rule. There is never a time when a machine can be moving if a child is out of the cab.
We are also shifting driveways and main thoroughfares away from the house and generally tidying up our farmyard to increase visibility.
Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner or those you work or spend time with are more willing to make changes to the way the work is done, or are more open to making safer, healthier choices?
We have an advisory board meeting where all in the business are in attendance and usually in a good frame of mind, plus we have a facilitator. These are usually the best time for discussions and having them in a meeting creates accountability.
If you could give any advice to another rural woman about health, safety and/or wellbeing in rural industries and communities, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?
Just do it. Wherever you can, keep it at the forefront of your own mind and the minds of those around you. Make simple adjustments and make them meaningful. Usually, if others can see a reason for the change then they will jump on board or help you. No one wants to see an employee or family member hurt at work – I think that’s always the number one priority. There have been some workplace and road accidents in our area (like many rural areas) that just stick in your mind forever. Agricultural and road accidents in rural settings are all too common and affect everybody in the community, for this reason we need to be extra vigilant. Living in our workplace is convenient and has many lifestyle advantages, but a farm is just that – a workplace. Start with keeping everyone safe in the most practical way possible.