21 February 2020
Most of us have seen small children struggling to stay awake in a car. They fight it but eventually, the soporific movement of the vehicle wins out. At five-years-old, Annabelle Coppin was no different from any other child. Except in her case, she fell asleep on her horse riding home from a full day of cattle mustering.
Today, there’s no falling asleep in the saddle and now, thirty years later, she is the owner and manager of Yarrie Station, a cattle property running a five thousand herd in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.
“You just know when you want to do something and taking over Yarrie has given me a great sense of purpose, and it is a great life,” she said.
Yarrie Station has been in the Coppin family for five generations and is set on a quarter of a million hectares. The nearest roadhouse is a hundred kilometres away so you don’t want to forget to bring home the milk.
“Yarrie is not only our livelihood, but it also is our home and we are deeply connected with the landscape,” she said.
Annabelle considers herself one of a new breed of Australian farmer, with a very different approach to farming practices and farmer’s relationship with urban Australia. “It’s about supplying food for the world, looking after our country and making it better for the next generation. “In Australia, we have the advantage of being able to produce excess food and because we are good farmers, we have the ability to feed others who don’t have a lot of land.”
“This job gives you all the elements you need in life. It gives you purpose, you work with the land and animals.”
Like the Coppin family, BHP and Yarrie Station have also had a long relationship with the station’s land. “For more than fifty years mining in one form or another has taken part on the station,” she said.
“When I was a teenager, I used to get frustrated knowing that there were a lot of mining people on our property but all were being fed beef from the east of Australia. “As we are a cattle station, I used to think this doesn’t make sense.” It was this thought which lead Annabelle to pursue BHP to start supplying beef locally from the Yarrie herd.
“I think you can definitely see a shift towards developing a greater connection to the local community and to their credit, BHP can see that connection makes a difference to their big business and the small towns.”
Annabelle believes mining and pastoral can often co-exist really well and as both are going to be around for a long time, she believes anything the two can do to complement each other makes sense.
“In the past, everyone used to have a connection to the country with a cousin or auntie. “But that’s not the case anymore so it’s our responsibility as farmers and also for urban Australia to reconnect because we are looking after the country for them.
Annabelle believes there are a lot of young producers who recognise the need to make farming more accessible and easy for her “city cousins” to understand. Talking about the number of meals Yarrie Station provides the world with each year, rather than the number of cattle they run, is just one example of this new approach.
“It’s a two way street between farmers and urban Australia. “There’s always going to be a future in agriculture and if you manage all aspects well, it’ll be a good one.”