Did you know that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the National Rural Ambassador Award? To celebrate, we’ve been catching up with the 19 individual who have held the prestigious title since 2001. We look forward to announcing number 20 next month at the Ekka.
When Harris Thompson won the national rural ambassador award at the Perth Royal Show in 2019 he was busy farming and showing livestock alongside his family. Their property in Boyup Brook is home to the family business Venturon Livestock, known for their well regarded on-property bull sale and collecting tri-coloured ribbons at royals across the width and breadth of Australia.
Harris’ involvement with shows started early. His mother had to leave the Harvey Agricultural Society Show due to being in labour with Harris, and one of the earliest photos of Harris is of him sitting on one of Breakaway Charolais’ bulls at the 1997 Perth Royal show, the year he was born.
The young man has a long history with agricultural shows, breeding and showing cattle as well as showing poultry and sheep. His family have shown cattle regularly and successfully at Sydney Royal Easter Show, Perth Royal and Royal Adelaide Show and Rockhampton’s Beef in Queensland.
The year he won the national title, the family had enjoyed significant success at royal shows around the country.
“We showed cattle very successfully at the Adelaide Royal show winning all division championships in the Charolais breed. We also showed at Sydney Royal that year with all of our females winning their respective classes and taking home reserve senior Champion female in the Charolais judging.”
Then Harris flew to England to be the associate judge at the South West Limousin beef cattle society herd competitions with Brian Lear where they toured 25 herds and saw a large portion of the south of England.
He is still happily working alongside his parents on the family farm and growing the farming business. Harris took the National Rural Ambassador title in 2019 and – thanks to Covid-19 – held the title for double the usual tenure.
“In 2020 the whole world changed as such with the ban of International travel that took place and Western Australia was put into a hard border lockdown,” Harris recalls.
“I show our families cattle at as many agricultural shows as possible around the state, so for me the cancellation of ag shows throughout our state and the country really took its toll. These events are so much more than just a show, it’s where you get to catch up with people that you only see at shows, where you get to meet like minded people and talk about all things agriculture.”
“To have shows back up and running this year is truly a great feeling. To get back in the ring at Wagin Woolorama showing cattle really showed me how much I missed it and continue to enjoy it.”
Harris’ family came away with the supreme livestock exhibit title at the Wagin Woolorama with their Charolais cow and calf pair.
He was then, after having judged at the Royal Adelaide Royal Show, Beef in Rockhampton and numerous shows across Western Australia, Harris received an invitation to judge cattle at the biggest ticketed event in Australia.
“To step into the ring at the 2021 Sydney Royal Easter Show and officiate my biggest judging role in my judging career was a moment I will remember forever. To be back at my favourite show in the country after last year’s cancellation was great.”
We asked Harris to reflect on the most memorable elements of his period as National Rural Ambassador.
“I didn’t think I would ever have a chance becoming the National Rural Ambassador, I’m just a young farmer who has a passion for showing cows and my local ag shows.”
“I still maintain daily and weekly contact with so many people I met at an event or conference where I was invited to attend as the National Rural Ambassador.
“My year probably looked a lot different to previous ambassadors as there were no royal shows for me to attend in 2020 or even agricultural shows and there were not many events held which I would have attended due to Covid-19.”
His parents were a big influence on his decision to enter the competition.
“I didn’t think I had what it took but my parents believing in me from the get go really helped me to get to the role of National Rural Ambassador.”
Harris says David Corker, the president of the Upper Blackwood Agricultural Society and a close family friend, was an enormous support throughout the competition. Similarly, he received support and advice from the board and executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia, as well as former state winner Luke Hall, who was the runner up National Rural Ambassador in 2018 as he progressed from state winner through to the national competition.
“During the national finals at Perth Royal Show, we had a team of cattle at the show so I was staying at the ground the entire time, and seeing Paul Carter, David Thomas, Peter Cooper and Deane Allen around the grounds at the show everyday really helped. No matter how busy they were they would make time to swing past the cattle lanes and see if there was anything I needed help with or anything I needed to bring clarity.”
Today, Harris is the vice president of the Upper Blackwood Agricultural Society, a role he has held for five years. He has been the cattle steward there for many years too.
“I can say that the National Rural ambassador competition has impacted me in so many positive ways. It has really boosted my confidence with public speaking which I use regularly judging or speaking at events. It has also given me valuable skills in writing resumes and interviews which I will use in the future often.”
“The friendships and contacts that I have made during the program are really going to benefit me for years to come. Some of the people I have met have become some of my closest friends. ”
“I would encourage anybody who is thinking about entering the program to take the leap and do it. If you think you haven’t got the experience or skills to apply for it, do it anyway.”