I’ve decided to write about a subject I’m very passionate about – farming. I grew up a farmer’s daughter and always knew I would end up a farmer’s wife. From a young age I lived and breathed sugar cane. My husband’s family goes back to when the sugar industry started in the Herbert River District, way back when in the 1870’s! My nonno got into the sugar industry back in the hay day after leaving Travagliato, Italy. The sugar industry became the Aquilini’s way of life, we have been here for four generations.
My dad started harvesting at a very young age, this year will be his 40th year in the high chair (driving a cane harvester), he’s only 54! So it’s safe to say it’s a lifestyle we were all born into. In the Herbert River District, the cane harvest season runs for about 5-6 months every year from mid June, weather permitting. From the early 90’s, when there wasn’t the technology there is available now in machinery, it wasn’t unusual to cop numerous 15 hour days every roster.
It wasn’t unusual to go days without seeing dad as a kid, I think that’s why I spent so much time with him in the harvester, and as I got older in the haulouts. I was used to having to go to events without dad, school do’s, things he would have loved to be at but due to break downs, late drops etc he just couldn’t. I couldn’t tell you how many times he came to school functions in his work clothes. In saying how much I love the season, it’s always been hard, mum has always done a lot! I have a lot of respect for mum in the way she always carried us four kids through the season with school, after school events, sports, socialising – you name it!
From the second we were born, we were raised to be very resilient kids, I think that’s why I have gone through my last five odd years with such a positive attitude (most of the time). We were always taught “you’ve gotta do what you gotta do to do what you wanna do”, and even then, I heard my mother saying that haha!
I was always helping dad with farm work, I would go disking, we would fix the roads and mow the farm, just to name a few. As a teenager, mowing was my job when I wasn’t working on weekends. I would have to cover a massive area, a few acres! Thank god we always had decent mowers! The four of us kids were bought up with a good work ethic. I landed my first after school job when I started high school doing a bit of office filing.
2005 was our first season with Case Maxi Hauls, I was thirteen, that’s when I knew I wanted to live in the Herbert forever and be a part of the sugar industry. I started spending more afternoons after school and weekends learning to drive, then on weekends I would occasionally do full days. The year before my accident I learnt to reverse fill (which is quite simple in those machines, but the female in me couldn’t quite get it)! Earlier in 2013 there was talk of me sitting in the seat permanently the following season, 2014, which was always a goal. For 6 months, the money is awesome and a massive plus is how passionate I about it! My aim was to own my own house by the time I was 25, I got there, but it would prove to be a lot harder than first anticipated.
I always wanted to own my own farm. I’m now part of a farming family that operates in the Herbert, although a lot differently to what I’m used to, and honestly, I struggle to understand it at times. But at the end of it all I married my farmer! I always knew I would!
It’s honestly a lifestyle I have had to really adapt to. I learn’t differently, Dad’s way of doing things, he was never home for days at a time, if we wanted to see dad we went to work, as kids, we loved it, my sister and I still do. With my husband it’s a different story, partly because of our situation (me, my health), partly because certain times of the year are quieter than others. I’m always asking “why aren’t you at work?” Not oh it’s nice to see you. I’M NOT USED TO IT! Haha.
From a young age, I came to realize being a farmer’s wife you come in second – and that’s ok! My mum is such a strong woman because of it. Think of it like this – do you want money? Yes, well your man has to go farming so that the money keeps rolling in. I love being an independent woman, it makes me feel great and it’s so good for my self-esteem!
I think growing up a farmer’s daughter, I have a better understanding than others that are, say, city kids of what sacrifices you have to make to live this trying lifestyle. My husband tells me that I have a better understanding out of any of his previous partners – I put it down to being the life I’m used to.