WORDS BY TODD KUCHEL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN KRÜGER
Beaming with pride and fulfilment, Sam Neumann sits beside me after the experience of a lifetime, expanding her knowledge and expectations of her chosen profession on the other side of the world.
With a passion derived from her family’s wheat and wool property, Sam studied to be a wool classer after completing school. From here she spent time within the agricultural industry, before moving into alternate industries, for further experience and diverse exposure.
Eventually Sam, seeking a way back to her roots in agriculture, joined Elders national agency, where she moved through roles, to her current position within the National Agency team. As e-commerce coordinator, Sam identifies, designs and develops technology based solutions to make remote and regional clients feel more connected with the markets and to enable Elders’ staff to be seen as relevant and responsive stock and station agents.
Feeling the need to learn about beef and beef production to excel in her new role, Sam went looking for opportunities and found the Angus Australia scholarship to Kansas State.
Upon opening the application, Sam found the first question asked for her involvement with the Angus breed and closed it immediately. Sam had no prior experience.
The extension officer later called Sam, asking if she intended on completing the application.
After explaining that she could not answer the first question, Sam was encouraged to apply.
Sam admits laughing it off at the time, thinking that it was simply a case of ratio target they hadn’t met, or that they were just looking for extra applicants. For that reason Sam believes she was a little casual in her interview. A week later she was called and offered the scholarship.
“There’s something incredibly empowering about having nothing on your agenda besides having to learn, I was so blessed by the experience.” – Sam Neumann
“It was a bit of a whirlwind,” Sam admits. “First, it was difficult to get a visa and when I finally did, I was on the plane the next week.”
Sam had her first class the day after she arrived. However, thanks to incredible teaching facilities and educators who are so invested in the success of their students, Sam found it easy to adapt.
“There’s something incredibly empowering about having nothing on your agenda besides having to learn,” Sam explains. “I was so blessed by the experience.”
Sam was surprised by the overwhelming generosity and acceptance of Americans. Numerous times, upon meeting farmers, professors and business owners, Sam was happily welcomed into their operations.
“I saw a lot of the industry due to people being open and transparent,” Sam explains.
These situations led Sam into doing many things she never thought she would do, like spending spring break in Montana, feeding cows in 4 feet of snow, artificially inseminating cows and even driving in the wrong side of a car on the wrong side of the road. Moments like these left her thinking at times, “How did I even end up here?”
One family in particular, were previous Kansas State graduates, not born into a ranching ‘farming’ property. This family started with one cow in 1977, and were at one point selling 300 bulls from 300 rented acres. They now sell over 700 bulls a year and run one of the largest embryo transplant programs in the US.
It was at this farm, that Sam was told that the day’s work was inducting cattle, meaning they needed to tag, tattoo, tail bleed, vaccinate and drench each animal, only to learn that she had done none of these things before.
“With the combination of my enthusiasm, their patience and a lot of laughing, at the end of the day, I had done it all.” Sam remembers.
“I was so blessed to meet so many people like this, who challenged me more than I had ever been.”
Another outstanding, memorable experience for Sam, was the time she spent in Texas with a delightful family, whose father she met at a trade convention in Arizona. Sam had mentioned her interest in Texas and was welcomed along.
“I began to question my sanity while waiting for that plane,” Sam laughs. She had only briefly met the man after all. Nevertheless, Sam arrived in Texas and was taken in like one of the family. While on their property she worked cows on horseback, inspecting corn and cotton crops and become a part of day to day ranch operations. Sam loved it so much, she later returned after completing her study.
Taking full advantage of the chance to travel, after classes at KSU finished Sam visited Florida, Houston, Alabama, Nashville, DC, New York and San Francisco before making her way back to Australia.
“I was so, so lucky.”
Sam admits that returning home was a bit of a shock, though with knowledge and experience of beef production, she is excited for new things to come.
After all, how many of us can say, “I love my job, I love what I do.”