Photo Credit –  Steph Coombes Creative 

“There was never something that anyone couldn’t, or could, do simply based on gender.”

Blythe grew up in the Pilbara, spending a lot of her childhood on Yarrie cattle station, where she learned her love for the cattle industry. Spending a lot of her childhood on the station mustering and doing stock work, she thrived being out on the land. Heading away to Perth for high school, Blythe learned how strong her love for the bush was, leaving the city as soon as she finished school and taking on roles in the pastoral industry, pearling and mining, which enabled her to travel Australia and the world.  

“Even after my initial roles working on the stations, I still wasn’t considering Agriculture as a career, life was just an adventure!”. Blythe was working on a Bauxite Mine in Queensland in the Cape Yorke area when the global financial crisis hit, which led her to make her way back to the West. She ended up back at Yarrie Station again, surrounded by a strong team of women who did everything and immediately felt like she’d come home. “I was surrounded by a really capable team of people. Flying helicopters, driving graders, managing the cattle, camp & team, it didn’t matter what sex you were. It mattered that everyone did their bit and did their best. There was never something that anyone couldn’t, or could, do simply based on gender.”

Having a strong interest in the animal handling side of the business, Blythe got an opportunity to work in the Live Export chain. Her job focused on working in the Live Export Market in the Middle East starting just prior to the 2011 Live Export ban and subsequent Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) implementation. Her role across the Middle East ramped up as Industry put enormous effort into improving understanding and application of ESCAS and Australian welfare expectations. Her work assisted Importers and Exporters in assessing where the supply chains needed improvement and then undertaking training and infrastructure improvements across land transport, feedlots, animal health, and the abattoir. “It was an incredible opportunity, and there is so much more to that region and the industry than anyone could understand without being closely involved”. 

In 2013 Blythe was awarded the Cattle Council rising champion. As part of the award, Blythe had the opportunity to network with other like-minded, ambitious individuals in Agriculture and travel to Mexico and Texas as part of The International Beef Alliance. “As I travelled was becoming more and more conscious of the land degradation that was occurring in livestock production systems around the world”. Blythe admits that something didn’t sit right with the way some livestock producers were getting their results and the outcomes from the land, and the impacts this was having on land, people and the animals. The other factor this equated to for Blythe was the future food security problem that could occur due to the desiccation of the land, which she was already seeing throughout her travels internationally. 

When she met her partner Greg, who Blythe now farms with outside of Harvey, he was already familiar with holistic management and farming systems that manage animals in a manner that has a positive impact on the environment, welfare and community. The more Blythe and Greg looked into this way of livestock land management, and they decided to buy in the South West. They purchased a small block in Binningup and built up a network of leased properties to expand their beef production. When Blythe stopped working with her overseas consultancy work, a neighbour, Graham Manning, extended the opportunity for her to gain experience in the Dairy Industry. “I believe Dairy farmers are the hardest working, most undervalued people in ag, the intensity of their animal and pasture management is incredible; milk should be so much more highly valued”. 

When the Mannings finished milking in 2016, Blythe played a role in supporting them to transition to the Beef industry. In 2018 they were ready to sell and approached Greg and Blythe to see if they could make something work to have them take over the property ‘Darena’. Over the last three years, they leased to own and own 400 acres outside of Harvey with Pastured Egg Birds and Beef, which has been a considerable step up from what they were previously running (in terms of land quality and mortgage quantity).

“It’s been a huge transition both for us and the land. Graham was a best practice farmer with the available information at the time. Best practice changes with new information and systems that focus on management that support the entire ecosystem are the emerging best practice which has huge opportunity for restoration of land function, improved profitability and ongoing food security”. 

Transitioning the property to regenerative practices has been a process of taking the land and implementing different strategies. Understanding and exploring the impact that management decisions are having on all aspects of the environment and business is key to being able to move towards goals that matter to you. Currently, Blythe is focusing on diversity in pasture species, soil biology and creating effective water and mineral cycles, all creating a much more resilient web that can withstand changes in the weather patterns and climate changes in general. Blythe is excited that people are starting to recognise the complexity of the systems and that it all comes back to soil health. “We are seeing a huge awakening and understanding that the basis of healthy civilisation comes back to our soil health”. 

Blythe’s advice for women wanting to create change in the regions is to invest in themselves. “Undertake training to make the best decisions that are right for you” Finding information and advice can be difficult if you aren’t clear on what outcome you want.