City lights, professionals, and a break from the bush

Host: Yougawalla Pastoral Co.
Written by Haydn Sale ­– Manager, Yougawalla Pastoral Co.

The 2016/2017 wet season has been the best we have seen since we have been living in the Kimberley. This will be our 10th year and we have been blessed with an amazing wet season that has broken many local rainfall records. Bulka and Margaret River Stations have received well over 1000mm of rain, in an area that has an average of 400 to 450mm, this is quite extraordinary. I try not to bang on about it too much when asked as I am mindful there our other areas of Australia still doing it tough, and like many farmers and graziers, I am sort of superstitious that if you talk it up too much the rain gods will give you a slapping down the track. That aside we are very pleased and sometimes agriculture does go your way, and it is magnificent when it does.

Bulka Swamp which hasnt filled since 2011 is now around 70,000 acres of water.

Areas of water ponding for erosion control growing back beautifully.

Around a year ago, the three families in partnership in Yougawalla Pastoral Company decided it was time to sell a portion or if required the whole of Yougawalla Pastoral Co. There were several reasons this decision was made, the primary one being the age and changing circumstances of our partners required an exit strategy for their investment, and generally things are quite buoyant in the agriculture at the moment so it seemed like a wise time to do this.

Home, on the market.

That is what the rational brain tells you to do, but the heart is a different matter altogether. This has been a very difficult decision for all involved but especially for Jane and I. Yougawalla Pastoral Company has been our baby from the beginning, we conceived the concept, found the first property and have driven the growth and expansion, living and breathing it daily (and nightly) for ten years. All ag producers know that it is not just an asset you are selling but something that has become your heart and soul, consuming massive quantities of blood, sweat, and tears along the way. For Jane too, much blood ­– nearly fatally when she was attacked by a bull and nearly killed 2011 – these large things and a plethora of smaller victories and setbacks make this much more than an asset to us. It was a hard decision but in the end you have to listen to your head and your gut, so we got on with it.

The sale process has been a long one with several setbacks, false starts, and changes in tack along the way, we are close to the finish line and I can’t wait to get back to my day job. The process of opening up your business and unavoidably in station life, your personal and private lives, is quite intrusive for people that like their own space and generally tend to keep to themselves. People you don’t know are asking you all sorts of questions and group after group staying in your home, looking and probing your business, is quite a challenge in itself. What starts to dawn on you early is you are now working two jobs. You are running your own business but now, also, you are a quasi-real estate agent and financial consultant.

My preferred office.

The second thing that dawns on you early is that there is a bountiful supply of bullshit artists out there. Not just your garden variety story teller at the local pub, but instead Olympic standard purveyors of high class and hard to recognise bullshit. These people will say they are interested, come to the stations, enjoy your hospitality, have a free holiday, and then depart full in the knowledge that they had no capability to do the deal. We soon realised screening people was a major part of the process.

These experiences along with many trips to Sydney and Melbourne, rubbing shoulders with professional types and enjoying the highlights of city life led me to a revelation of sorts. We have chosen the right life. Many times as you grow older, get consumed in work, have a family, things look greener on the other side. I have often wondered in quiet moments if I am doing the wrong thing by my family out here, educationally, socially, financially. I know now this is not true.

I was very lucky to have my parents work hard to send me to a top school in Melbourne, and I could have gone on to any city based profession with a start like that. I chose agriculture because of family connection to it and I loved the life. What has been an unforeseen highlight since then is the quality of people you meet along the way in the industry. There is still a strong moral code to do the right thing by others, look after community and neighbours, help people through hard times. Greed exists everywhere but not in such brazen, bald faced incarnations as I have recently experienced in my short return to professional city life. Each time away I could not wait to get back home and the cathartic feeling of returning to space, bush life, and bush people is hard to put into words.

Coming home – access by air only.

The YPC sale process will shortly conclude and Jane and I and the family will be staying on to keep managing the business and living in the Kimberley at Yougawalla. We will not be going anywhere for a while and I am now more grateful than ever for that.

The lifestyle I love.