Scholar Profile: 1968 Scholar Jim Witherspoon QLD
Jim Witherspoon was brought up at in the Tablelands region of Queensland and went to school at Herberton before going to boarding school in Cairns. Following this, he graduated with a Diploma of Dairying at Queensland Agriculture College, Gatton, in 1951.
He married Margaret and they have five children, David, Paul, Judy, Jenny and Robert.
Jim was a progressive farmer with dairying the initial enterprise, followed by potato production. In addition, they grew corn, peanuts, navy beans, lupins and mung beans. There were also various pastures including Green and Gatton Panic and Seteria of many varieties Narok, Kazungula and Nandi.
Nuffield Scholarship – 1968
His involvement in the production and marketing of potatoes lead him to a Nuffield Scholarship to study potato production in 1968. He and Margaret placed the farm in the hands of a share farmer to pursue the study. It initially took Jim to Zimbabwe, with Margaret joining him later in the UK. They travelled to Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and then on to the USA. Of the many memorable things that they did on their trip included visits to various whiskey distilleries in Scotland!
He was also very passionate about cattle. The introduction of the Simmental breed to Australia was timely post-scholarship and he undertook an intensive crossbreeding program, consisting of Braham, Hereford and Simmental. His agenda was to produce an animal that could tolerate the heat and the tropical ticks and produce tender meat. His gauge of success was the various carcass competitions he entered and won.
In early 1970 he became the Queensland delegate and founding member of the Simmental Society, a group responsible for the establishment of this breed in Australia. He was also an active board member of the Atherton Tableland Potato Cooperative and the Atherton Tablelands Maize Seed Growers Association.
In early December 1980 Jim did a road trip to the NT to primarily to look at opportunities to market hybrid maize seed as well as visiting various cattle properties. On this trip he was offered a position with a new authority being set up to develop family-operated cropping properties in the Douglas Daly region of the NT.
Jim accepted the role and was 46 years old when he, Margaret and the family moved to the NT, selling their Ravenshoe and Hot Springs properties.
Jim relished the role as Project Manager for the Agricultural Development and Marketing Authority. The job encompassed overseeing the surveying of farms, facilitating the clearing of land and managing fencing and other infrastructure. Jim had to interact with various government departments and government officials as well as all the contractors undertaking the work.
He also became involved in the local Adelaide River Show Society and then later when they moved to Darwin, the Darwin Royal Agricultural Show Society. In 1998, he was awarded an Honorary Life Membership of the Royal Agricultural Show Society. He enjoyed the connection with the show community and the social aspect being with likeminded people, the exhibitors, judges and graziers.
In 2003 after 23 years in the NT, Jim and Margaret sold up and moved to the Lockyer Valley and purchased a small farm in the Mulgowie area and produced Bazadais and Lowline cattle. They were also heavily involved with Landcare before officially retiring in 2011.
In 1960 Jim joined the Atherton Hospital Board, becoming the youngest member of a hospital board in Queensland, managing the Atherton and Herberton hospital as well as the surrounding local town clinics. He was a member representing Ravenshoe for 21 years, until he and his family moved to the NT.
He and Margaret were also heavy involved in the Catholic Church and the Catholic primary school at Ravenshoe.
Jim had a passion for attending auctions and honed the art when living in the NT. For Jim, it was as much about the competition to be a winning bidder as the social aspect and banter with auctioneers.
In 2018, Jim and Margaret celebrated 60 years of marriage.