Salute to those who paved the way

I have just had the most wonderful 36 hours visiting Crookwell for the Zone 3 Land Showgirl finals. See previous post

I met some amazing young women and possibly the most adorable and funniest not so young woman I have come across in a long time.

Meet Judy Offley, grandmother of Young Farming Champion Adele Offley


Adele and Judy Offley pretty in pink

Now I did a little bit of research on Crookwell before I went and discovered that believe it or not in the early 1900’s it was dairying that was the prime driver of local economy with potatoes coming a close second. According to the Town and Country Journal 1907 the Offley Family were one of the leading potato growers. 

This is a little quote from the 1907 article that amused me that was less than wax lyrical about the famers in the area who didn’t fall into the “leading” category. I am confident  the author left town shortly afterwards and possibly not voluntarily  

The country at Crookwell is both hilly and undulating, and whilst being well adapted for dairying and mixed farming is also suited for grazing. A rich red chocolate soil, of great productivity, predominates over the ridges.  A good deal of the land has, of course, been cleared, but a ‘good deal of it still remains heavily timbered,and on hundreds of acres where the trees were felled years ago tho timber still lies on.tho ground. It is, however, not altogether surprising that many of the farms don’t present a highly improved appearance Old ideas and methods die hard in long-settled districts, and as some of the oldest established farms in the country, together with some of the most veteran farmers, are to be found here. Crookwell affords a rare mixture of up-to-date methods, combined with much that is primitive and slovenly.

Well there is certainly no dairying in Crookwell anymore and Judy told me that after growing potatoes for 25 year straight without making a profit (and the accountant telling them they must be crazy) they are very pleased and proud to riding on the back of the merino these days. Whilst there may only be four potato growers left in the Crookwell District my table last night was labelled ‘Sebago’ and every other table was named after a variety of potato. Hail the potato – almost gone but not forgotten in the farming history of Crookwell 

Judy is also very proud of her award winning garden and rightly so with it featuring in some of Australia’s leading magazines. IMG_4117

Judy’s love of flowers has found her in some very amusing situations and a story that I loved today was Judy being invited to do the floral arrangements for the opening of the Goulburn Civic Centre by Premier Nick Greiner 30 years ago.

After spending considerable time on the signature arrangement that Nick Greiner would be standing in front of when he officially opened the centre Judy was approached by two very serious young men in suits who told her that it was very important that the flowers were very firmly secured in the vase as the bomb squad would shortly be giving them the once over.

With a twinkle in her eye Judy told me she thought far too much attention was being paid to the welfare of Nick Greiner and not enough to her vase that the flowers were being displayed in and she would have thought twice about using her own vase if she knew there was a chance it would be blown up.

After many wonderful stories like this we went on a tour of the famous garden and the stories didn’t stop there


Judy has over fifteen different varieties of hydrangeas in her garden.


Being a bit of hydrangea fan myself I asked her what was the secret of keeping the cut flower fresh.


Judy said the key was giving them long soaks in the bath. Something the family did apparently not appreciate coming home from the paddock on a hot summer day to find the bath and shower full of hydrangeas 


Judy and her husband John recently went on a holiday and left the gardens in what they thought were the trusted hands of the family only to return home and to find that the ‘local hairdresser had been invited in their absence to trim the sacred Weeping Elm and give it a basin cut “


The Weeping Elm in recovery mode

Everyone else was almost as flabbergasted as Judy and as it turns out the sacred Merino rams were the mystery trimmers.

Judy says to Bruce her son today. ‘Surely those rams must have been in the garden for days before anyone noticed” Bruce just gave her one of those cheeky farmer smiles that say butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth


I got the feeling it would be quite some time before Judy would leave the garden for too long in the future

Crookwell also has the proud history of being the first branch of the national icon that is the Country Women’s Association and nobody is more proud to be a member of the CWA than Judy. I found this lovely story about Judy’s involvement with the Crookwell CWA here

Judy’s motto: “The farmer’s wife can have a say with CWA!”

With many of her local branches closing she is fervently hoping the Crookwell Branch will be able to celebrate its 100 year anniversary

For Judy I can see that for her its what the CWA does to underpin the health and happiness of rural communities that drives her ongoing support and in particular the Crookwell CWA’s support of CareFlight. Judy was very excited to see the community continue to queue up for Damper (served 6 ways) and Anzac biscuits on Australia Day with the  proceeds going directly to the CareFlight organization to support their community work.

Some of us are born to be mothers and grandmothers and some of us aren’t.  As a mother I set the bar very high when I envisioned what the perfect mother should look and act like and I failed to reach my expectations miserably.

On the other hand I watch my gorgeous friend Bev with her grandchildren and today Judy and am absolutely certain that each and everyone of their grandchildren know just how lucky they are to be surrounded and loved by such hidden treasures.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet you Judy and I salute you. Its women like you who are the heart and soul of rural families and their communities     

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

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