Sam Vincent – My Father and Other Animals

Black Inc, an imprint of Schwartz Books Pty Ltd, Australia, 2022; second edition 2023
Cover design Akiko Chan
Cover image Getty/221A

Sam Vincent’s memoir/philosophy about country, community and heritage is a highly readable work which has us both laughing at the author’s self-deprecatory accounts of his introduction to sustainable farming and deeply considering matters of succession, inheritance and First Nations connection with the land.

Barbie spoke to Sam Vincent about My Father and Other Animals

On one level it is a fond and humorous homage to his dad (and his mum actually though the title alludes just to his father) whose Gollion  Farm he now runs in the hills north of Canberra. Gollion operates with reference to the practices and principles of the likes of Peter Andrews and Charles Massy.

Sam now produces figs much sought after by regional restaurants. He also manages his fields using a rotation method, regenerating pastures and organically fertilising his fruit orchards.

In telling stories of his youth, his ineptness at farming and practical pursuits he also points to the inventiveness and resourcefulness of his dad, who could turn his hand to anything, inventing things he needed if they did not exist commercially.

What comes through strongly in this part of the book is the author’s sense of inadequacy in the face of so many frequent, repetitive and gruelling uncitified jobs.

However, despite his sense of not quite measuring up he does eventually take over the farm, though stating that his sisters may perhaps be better suited. He tilts at the Australian farming tradition of sons inheriting the farm and daughters getting nothing.

Amidst tales of farting cows, graphic accounts of calf birthing and eccentric methods of pump priming, there is the serious business of Indigenous ownership. Gollion under Sam Vincent has formally recognised parts of the farm as Aboriginal land, for example in the renaming/reclaiming of Bald Hill to its Aboriginal name Derrawa Dhaura.  

For countless centuries the ochre quarry on the property provided material for important traditional ceremonies and in 2019 was officially declared the 13th Aboriginal place on a private property.

In discussing these issues of succession, dispossession, inheritance, sustainable practices and community, the author thus raises much more significant matters than a mere memoir might.

The book is both community history and personal musing, a delight for the reader with its candour and its thoughtful examination of things too often left unsaid.

Thank you to Black Inc for my review copy and to Sam for a rich conversation recently at The Yazzbar in Yass arranged by The Yass Book Store.