The stories you tell, struggle to tell and the ones that get locked into a box

When our farm started doing things very differently ( like milking cows three times a day in a rainforest environment ) and winning awards people were very interested in our story.

I still get asked to tell my story often. For the last seven years I have suggested journalists tell the stories of the young people I work with.

Recently I have had a number of requests to tell the story about my commitment to the advancement of women and girls as it just so happens that 8 out 10 young people working with me putting their hands up to tell agriculture’s story are young women.

A recent request (and turning 65) had me thinking deeply about my journey. Looking for pictures and the process reminded me of things that had slipped my mind or things I was determined to put in a box and do my best never to open again.

Its doesn’t work that way does it?

The dark parts of your life you don’t talk about just tend to sit there and fester

As part of my deep dive into my journey I came across below. A Take Two story written by journalist Jodie Duffy for the Illawarra Mercury that morphed into a couple feature stories.

I remember the original interview. It was awkward both Michael and I were not quite sure what to share.

In 2021 it is this comment from Michael that stands out for me

Nick was always the centre of our lives and the day he started boarding school is one of our most harrowing moments.

It was the highlight of our week when he got off the train on Friday afternoons He always made sure he got home in time to help me finish in the dairy

I tell people I came back to my farming roots because Nick decided to join the business in 2001 after he finished school.

But that is not the whole story. In 2000 when Nick was completing the HSC the pharmacy I managed, which was open 14 hours a day was robbed a number of times by two masked men.

Instead of coming home to milk cows after a week at school Nick would come to the pharmacy to protect me. He turned out to be very impressive at data entry as well

I was grateful but also felt guilty that I was potentially putting my son at risk.

As it turned out it was always other people’s children who were ever only going to be at risk

When the robbers were finally caught I discovered there was a good reason they didn’t hold up the pharmacy when I was working. That was because I knew them both and they knew I would recognise their voices.

You often don’t know how much you are being impacted by traumatic events  happening around you until you reach the tipping point

One of the robbers was a long term customer of the pharmacy and he was injured in the police pursuit that eventually caught him. The hospital asked him what medication he was on. He told the hospital to ring me.

That was the day I lost it.

Those robberies fueled by the long term drug habits of two young men  impacted so many lives. The beautiful young people I worked with, everyone who worked in the pharmacy and their families and my family

My family tried so hard but we never really moved on. No matter how hard you try you cant put the bad in a box and pretend it never happened.

I am a very different person today. The confident persona is a façade.

You don’t get a second chance to rob me of my soul.

When I feel undervalued I tell you and I don’t do forgiveness.

TAKE TWO – by Jodie Duffy

Lynne

I met Michael when I was 18 He came to Jamberoo with his brother to play football. The local paper did a profile on him and when I saw his picture I said “wow I’ve got to meet this guy”

A mutual acquaintance lined up a blind date for the Jamberoo Footballers Ball – the social event of the year in those days. Michael had injured his ankle @ training and spent the entire night with his foot in an esky of ice. This was probably a good thing as we didn’t realise until well into our relationship that Fred & Ginger we where not. Real life lived up to the photo and it was infatuation at first sight.  I went off to Uni and we spent every weekend together for the next 3 years. My girlfriends called Michael – HT. He is still my heartthrob 30 years later.

We got engaged when I was 21 and married as soon as I finished Uni

When we first got married Michael had a 7am -3pm job. When he was approached to manage the farm @ Clover Hill we both drifted into doing 14 hours shifts

When our son Nick was born 5 years later; he spent the greater part of his younger years with Michael on the farm. We had four sisters living next to us and they became his pseudo grandmothers. I still worked 14 hour shifts and was pretty much an absentee mum. When Nick went to boarding school we grew much closer

Whilst Nick was a boarding school Michael and I ensured we had as many weekends off as possible. Nick played a lot of sport and it was great to watch & support him @ weekends.

Nick skied competitively and we went to Canada every Christmas holidays so Nick could train. This was a wonderful time in our lives. In 2000 the deregulation of the dairy industry had a huge impact on our dairying business. This was the defining moment that bought us all back to the farm. It works really well, we complement each others skills. Nick has been managing the business for the last 4 years and became a partner in June. Nick is a 7th generation dairy farmer. My family has been dairying in Australia since 1831 and Michael’s since the 1860’s

My father was a reluctant dairy farmer and always said- Lynne whatever you do never learn to milk a cow. I have followed his instructions implicitly. There is so much more to do on a dairy farm than milk cows. The role that gives me the most satisfaction is looking after the calves. You are working every day with between 30 to 40 living breathing little things that rely on you totally. I recently had to get the vet to euthanize one of my calves. It was almost as heartbreaking for him as it was for me

Michael is the family’s quiet achiever. He is crazy about his cows. His great passion is watching them compete in the show ring. He lives from show to show. At the moment an accident he had in December has kept him out of the ring and this part of his life has been put on hold. You can tell he misses it desperately

I see my role in the industry differently to Michael. I feel it is critical that agriculture has high profile. It is important to constantly remind people we produce the food of life.

Michael

I really cherish the moments Lynne & I had together when we first met. As I get older I am constantly reminded how much she means to me.  When Nick was little I was able to fit my work schedule around the important moments in his life. I took him to school every-morning He would spend his afternoons with our next door neighbours who lived adjacent to the dairy and he would sneak across to the dairy whenever he could

When he started to play football I started the afternoon milking earlier so I could coach his team

Nick was always the centre of our lives and the day he started boarding school is one of our most harrowing moments.

It was the highlight of our week when he got off the train on Friday afternoons He always made sure he got home in time to help me finish in the dairy

Lynne always organised her days off so she could help me show our stud cattle As a girl she had shown horses and was a deft hand at putting the finishing touches on the cows as they went into ring. Nick shares our passion for showing. It is truly rewarding to watch your child follow in your footsteps

As a family we have shared all the highlights and watched our show team grow to a point where they are nationally competitive

Life on the land is a roller coaster. We reinvent our business (and sometimes our selves) every year – whatever it takes to make it successful The business plan is definitely a dynamic document

Deregulation was the turning point in our lives. The big positive is we get to work together as a family every day doing something we all think makes a difference

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

4 thoughts on “The stories you tell, struggle to tell and the ones that get locked into a box”

    1. Thank you – we all make choices we wish we didn’t and yet so often its the tough choices that shape who you are and what you stand for

  1. Lynne, I devoured this like a sweet delicacy. A rare insight into your precious family life.

Comments are closed.