I left Dublin airport on Tuesday the 3rd of May to begin my exchange. After 26 hours of exhausting travelling and three plane journeys later I made it to Launceston Airport, Tasmania. My first four days were spent at Rural Youth’s main calendar event, Agfest. Agfest is the biggest agricultural field day show in Tasmania, with over 58,000 patrons visiting over three days. Planning had been underway from the previous year and the show was a great success. Over these few days I got to meet the other exchangees from England (Rachael), Scotland (Gemma), Austria (Eva) and Switzerland (Christa) and it also gave me the chance to meet all the rural youth members too.
Over my time spent at Agfest I was put to work, were I got up each morning at 6am to go park some of the thousands of cars which were going to attend the show. I also got a chance to explore the show and see all the stalls which were set up. They had an equestrian section and sheep dog trials which were very interesting. I also spent some time in the craft huts which were full of local produce such as chocolate, wooden sculptures, souvenirs, knives, cracking whips, books and handmade clothing made from merino and alpaca wool. I was lucky enough to be shown around my first day by one of the members, who introduced me to nearly all the members working at the show. Each evening we all reconvened in the crib room after dinner and evening chores had been completed and, in true young farmer fashion we played different ice breaker games.
I then moved onto my first host (Amanda Bayles) the day after Agfest finished. I spent over a week with her and Gemma the Scottish exchangee was staying with her too. During our time there we spent several days working with her on the dairy, milking over 800 cows, 3 times in 2 days in a rotary parlour. It was very interesting as I've never worked in a rotary parlour before and was interesting to see how they milked the cows. Also on my time with Amanda we spent most of the rest of our week at her dads farm working with sheep. I visited an abattoir one day and a cattle market the next. This gave us an opportunity to see how animals were graded and sold for what qualities. As wool production is a big market over in Tasmania most sheep sold are merino breeds and grown for their wool rather than meat.
Gemma and I travelled down to the south of the state to spend the next 10 days with the English exchangee Rachael and spend some time travelling around the state. We visited Port Arthur at the bottom of the east coast, the spot at which criminals first docked when they were shipped over to Tasmania. This was very interesting to walk around this historic site. We also travelled up along the east coast, visiting places such as Swansea, St Helens, Wineglass Bay, Bay of Fires and St Columba Falls. During this time we also travelled to Cradle Mountain in the hope to climb it but it was too foggy to even see the peak of the mountain. We spent a night in Strahan and then headed back down south to Hobart to visit Salamanca market. Our morning at Salamanca ended our travels and we all headed back to Carrick to attend the Agfest dinner. I had a brilliant night at the dinner and was a brilliant farewell to Gemma who left to return to Scotland two days later.
I spent the next few weeks down in south Tasmania with several different rural youth members. Rob Shoobridge took Rachael and I to his shack in Port Arthur were we went fishing. We then caught the ferry over to Bruny Island to spend three days with Owen Woolley on his uncle’s vineyard, were we visited all the local tourist spots; The Neck, Cloudy Bay, the lighthouse, the cheese factory, the oyster farm and the chocolate factory. Owen also took me shooting on the Friday evening for the first time, which was exciting. The following day we went to Tahune Airwalk to walk in the trees. On the Sunday evening I said goodbye to Rachael who was continuing her travels up the east coast of Australia.
The following day I moved to my next host Alex White, who I stayed with for two weeks. Over my time with Alex we went to Cascade Brewery, the Great Lakes to see the snow on the mountains; shooting in Nubeena; Mount Field National Park; Mawsons Hut, Richmond and Hobart City. I then moved onto my next (and final) host, William Craigy in Latrobe. I stayed with the Craigy family for nearly a week and was treated like part of the family. I explored Latrobe town for an afternoon and went to Streyton cider factory for a tour. Also on my last day William and I went to Tasmazia Maze and had a lovely breakfast after being lost for nearly two hours!
I finally returned to Port Arthur to attend the State Ball, which was my final night with all the rural youth members. I said most of my goodbyes and had a lovely dinner and a brilliant night. It was a great way to end my time in Tasmania. Rachael (the English exchangee) returned with her cousin Becky to attend the dinner and I left two days later to go travelling up the east coast with them, starting at Brisbane.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who sponsored me on my exchange, a special thanks goes to BCM security, Memento, JH McPherson Machinery, Ballymoney RFC and Kilraughts YFC for their generous donations. Without them my trip would not have been possible. I can honestly say I've had the most amazing three months, I've met some lovely people along my travels and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my exchange. I would highly recommend and encourage any young farmer to do an exchange as I've learnt so much from my time away and have definitely made some friends for life.