From corporate career to beef producer

You could describe her as a country girl, trapped in the city. Growing up in Adelaide, there was always a country calling for Meridie Jackson. But it certainly hasn’t come easy. She’s had to take the long road to get there – from a corporate career to the job of being a mum. Only in the last few years has her dream come true. She’s officially a farmer, producing beef in Central Victoria around 1.5 hours north-east of Melbourne. To learn how she’s done it without inheriting a family farm, Meridie generously shares her story.

Longing for the country life

Meridie believes her first stroke of good fortune was being born into a supportive family that could see her true passion.

“For as long as I can remember, I always felt misplaced. It was like someone swapped me in hospital,” says Meridie.

Given that, her parents carved out as much time as possible for a young Meridie to spend on family friends’ farms, horse events and rodeos. Her grandfather loved horses and her uncle left home at a young age to be a Jackaroo. She thinks those two important relationships in her life planted the seed. Meridie followed in their footsteps and ended up taking up a stint as a Jillaroo in her gap year.

“It was a formative experience for me. It was pretty hard work. I was the first girl to work out in the stock camp instead of the kitchen or being a governess. I felt there was some opposition to it from other staff. But I loved it. The freedom, the adventure, the possibility.”

In the background, Meridie’s dad purchased a hobby farm in the Adelaide Hills, which Meridie describes as the love of her life at the time. But adult life took her in a different direction, utilising her commerce degree she won a cadetship with Elders, which lead to a job in New York with Deloitte.

“But, geez, I missed ag,” she laughs. 

First generation farmer

By the time Meridie decided to become a first-generation farmer, she had a husband and three daughters in tow. So how did she do it?

“I just put in place small steps to head me down the path of where I wanted to go.”

It involved saving money, leasing parcels of land and finally being able to buy her own property.

Running a farm is more than owning one though, and Meridie had a steep learning curve ahead of her.

“I did not actually know how to pull a calf or fix a fence. I just threw myself in the deep end,” she recalls.

Meridie says she had the eagerness to learn, listened to others, asked questions and did a lot of research. Now, there are very few things she can’t do herself.

Meridie with her daughter on the farm

Key decision maker

Five or six years in, Meridie now produces Angus and Wagyu beef under the Smith and Jackson brand, selling direct to local butchers, which gives her some certainty around pricing in this time of livestock values plummeting.

“I’ve never actually been in a situation where my income has actually just halved in less than a year. Same work, for half the money. But I guess you just have to hold on. I did read somewhere recently that hope is not a strategy, but I think it is my strategy at the moment,” she laughs.

Meridie is proud to be the key decision maker on her farm and believes there’s huge potential for more women to give up their seats in the background and take the lead.

Hear more stories like this by subscribing to the Telling Our Story podcast on iTunes (or wherever you listen to podcasts) and follow podcast host Angie Asimus on Instagram for more updates.

Angie Asimus

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