How a Lifechanging Experience in Australia's Outback Launched a Dairy Farmer's Advocacy CareerThu, 16 Aug 2018 12:29:45 CDT
The opportunity to spend a year abroad learning a new skill is an opportunity that comes around only once in a lifetime. Several years ago, Rebecca Chaney and her husband, Lee, were presented with such an opportunity and took a chance on it. Little did they know what a lifechanging experience it would turn out to be for them and their family. Chaney spoke about her experience recently at the Oklahoma Women in Ag and Small Business Conference that took place last week and shared her story with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
Chaney and her husband both grew up on their families’ dairy farms in Maryland. That’s how they met in fact. For anyone that has ever worked on a dairy, knows the commitment leaves little time for other things. For that reason, the Chaneys believed raising a family would be out of the question for them, making the decision to dedicate themselves to keeping their dairies going. However, their families eventually dispersed the herds. Wondering what their next move would be, the couple made the extraordinary decision to pack up and move to Australia for a year, to live and work on a remote cattle station in the western territory of Australia’s outback located nearly 1,000 miles from Perth.
The Chaneys landed on a million-acre ranch during the wet season, separated from the nearest town two hours away by a flooded river making travel impossible without a boat ride to ferry them across. The living conditions were spartan. Absent electricity, a fire needed to be stoked each morning in order to take a warm shower. Chaney and her husband returned to the states a year later in 2000 and wrote a book about their experiences.
“Before the trip, I knew what Lee and I were doing was very unusual. So, I kept a journal every day on the trip,” Chaney said. “That journal then basically was the foundation for my book, Bulldust in My Bra: An American Couple’s Working Season in the Outback.”
The book launched Chaney into a speaking career, where audiences across the country, both from the ag industry and consumer sector alike, were eager to hear her recount her experience. Not only did it set her on a new career path, it also changed the direction of her life with Lee.
“That lifechanging experience really helped Lee and I make the decision to move 1,400 miles from our family and friends in Maryland to relocate to the cattle ranch we live on today in Nebraska,” she said, referring to Cross-Diamond Cattle Co. owned by Kim and Scott Ford. “It was also very impactful for my husband who halfway through the trip decided that he wanted to have a family.”
Today, the Chaneys are raising two daughters and together have authored eight children’s books and currently working on their ninth. The book series was born from their shared passion for agricultural education. The family realized the need in our society to fill the widening gap between consumers and the people that produce their food.
“The real passion for our family is agricultural education. There is a real disconnect with consumers and agriculture,” she said, explaining how her career has again pivoted into the world agricultural advocacy. “So, every book we produce- we’re introducing something new on the ranch. We never make any book the same because we just want to keep getting more information out there to try to educate the consumer as much as we can.
“We want them to appreciate what we do and to know that we’re producing a safe product while sustaining agriculture and protecting the environment for future generations.”
Learn more about Chaney's adventures by visiting her website, here.
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