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Rural business women excel

26 August 2019

One Year On

2018 Rural Womens Award

We spoke with each of the 2018 AgriFuture women business winners (above) to see how they’re travelling one year on.

Melissa Connors moved to regional Victoria in 2012. She and her family quickly identified their knowledge gap when it came to farming. Melissa also discovered retired and older generation farmers keen to pass on their knowledge. Melissa established This Farm Needs a Farmer to meet the needs of the two groups and was recognised for her contribution to agriculture by taking home the 2018 AgriFutures Victorian Rural Woman of the Year award.

One year on

The award has been an incredible stepping-stone. I have been invited to speak at many events, including the Telstra Women in Ag lunch at Farm World, Lardner Park and Melbourne Universities Job Expo for Agriculture students; to present at industry meetings and community groups such as Intrepid Landcare and other Landcare groups and to partner up with the Kyneton Community House to facilitate its 'Ag Skills for Life' program.

What’s on the horizon?

The next chapter of This Farm Needs A Farmer is the concept called 'Shadow Farming'.  I have just secured funding to launch this next step with the support of Regional Development Victoria.  This will see TFNAF move into a new phase as its own business with its own self-supporting income model. This is an opportunity for existing farmers to diversify their income without leaving their farms and for new and aspiring farmers to gain exposure and experience to working farms. 

Linda Blackwood’s Station Site Access Accreditation program improves risk-management, increases efficiency and reduces administration costs, by allowing contractors to lodge their information into an app or website. Linda was the Northern Territory’s 2018 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award winner. She filed her answers to our questions while covering the big distances that are part of her workday.

One year on

The chance to represent the NT at the Awards, and the public speaking opportunities about both myself and my project that have followed on from that have been great opportunities. Attending the Australian Institute of Company Directors course which formed part of the prize was another.

What’s on the horizon?

I am taking my Station Site Access Accreditation project to the development stage, while pursuing some paid director roles. I’m also sharing my skills and knowledge to support my community and rural Australia in general, and I’ve been championing the AgriFuture’s Rural Women’s program. It’s a fantastic opportunity for women who want to grow themselves and their community.

AgriFutures South Australian Rural Woman of the Year Alex Thomas says she intends to empower rural women to share their stories of success in safety.

Her #PlantASeedForSafety campaign will profile and celebrate a minimum of 100 rural women who are making lifesaving changes to safety across a range of primary industries. She is also encouraging the use of the hashtag #SaveALifeListenToYourWife.

One year on

Since winning the Award, I’ve been fortunate to receive the 2019 SafeWork SA Augusta Zadow Award, which injected a further $20,000 into the #PlantASeedForSafety (and #SaveALifeListenToYourWife!) campaign.

I’ve also participated in the 2019 Governor’s Leadership Program, which provided an opportunity to cross-pollinate safety ideas with other industries and strengthen my contribution to the regions.

I have since been appointed a member of the Board for the Hart Field Site Group Board and was a guest speaker at more than 20 public engagements Australia-wide. These events included the Premier’s Reception at the Royal Adelaide Show, Australia Day celebrations for a remote rural community and various other events in support of those affected by drought.

What’s on the horizon?

Discussions are currently underway with stakeholders from New Zealand and the United Kingdom looking at taking the #PlantASeedForSafety (and #SaveALifeListenToYourWife!) campaign global.

The Rural Women’s Award has catalysed such immense personal and professional growth, it’s now my mission to support and encourage other aspiring rural women to pursue the Award. I can’t imagine another platform that provides such instant exposure for an idea or conversation on a national - if not global - stage.

Allison Clark, Tasmania’s AgriFutures Award winner, believes businesses have great ideas, “but do not have the necessary skill or experience to design, develop and commercialise a product and at the same time limit risk of failure.”

One year on

I started my AgriFutures project in May 2018 with the vision to create positive change for individuals with literacy and learning style challenges – and quickly found myself in a space where diversity, disadvantage, and disability has driven me further. I can’t tell you that I have created a new business, new piece of technology, or generated millions of dollars in new sales. What I can say is that I have generated many conversations for change – I have pushed harder into spaces that many people find hard to embrace and I am shaping the journey of many businesses (2 – 1000 employees) as they comes to terms with person-centred strategies. 

Many Australian’s live with challenges that impact on their ability to start a business or find their way into employment. New technologies can help make this easier, but the harder piece to “crack” is taking impacted individuals on the journey with the rest of us. This can include involvement from the very start of a design and development activity so that we truly understand what impacts on their lives and build solutions in from the start. 

It is not enough to have wheel-chair access … it is about having the room configured so that you can see and hear and make it easy for all contributions to occur.

What’s on the horizon?

The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award has been the catalyst which has enabled me to pivot into the space of diversity, disadvantage, and disability with stronger conviction. 

My project, which is designed to include a range of tools that can make it easier for business start-up information to be communicated, is well underway. I am also working to highlight ways in which agricultural research and development can be more easily extended and adopted into industry. I plan to continue working with organisations on person-centred transitions which can help their business succeed holistically.

Krista Watkins, AgriFutures Queensland winner and overall National winner, fills us in on what she has been doing.

Her company, Natural Evolution, takes fresh produce such as green bananas and sweet potato and turns the produce into flour for consumer goods like pasta.

The sweet potato industry wastes on average 50 tonnes an acre and 70 percent of the national crop is grown in Qld.

“As a primary producer,” says Krista, “it’s absolutely heartbreaking that so much of your crop that you’ve put a lot of love, care and money into is simply thrown away because there isn’t a market for it, it’s oversupplied or it doesn’t look how consumers think it should look.”

One year on

The company recently won the Peter Kenny medal from the Queensland Government for its significant contribution to the state’s agriculture industry; released gold sweet potato flour in its own brand and to Woolworths Macro, and has processed over 60MT of broccoli powder from over supplied, or not-to-fresh-market-specification, for release into Woolworths Macro.

What’s on the horizon?

Krista has the launch of Plantation Brew Co., an authentic, sustainable, distilled line of alcoholic beverages made from excess produce. The first line will be a Sweet Potato Vodka.

She is also planning to build more Nutro-Lock TM processing facilities in Australia - three in 2020.

“We will continue to reduce farm produce waste, creating viable alternative opportunities for produce and a circular economy for fresh food producers. As well we want to build an agritourism centre that doubles as an RTO (Registered Training Organisation) for rural people looking to upskill, obtain skills, and link them to real job opportunities through our networks”

Darrylin Gordon aims to build a future where rural entities can mix culture, business and community together sustainably. She was runner-up in the national AgriFutures award and the winner for Western Australia. Her project supports traditional owners to maintain cultural values, whilst caring for country and managing successful pastoral businesses.

One year on

I’ve completed the planning stage 1 for the Training Program out on Lamboo Station. It kicked off end of April and will finish in September/October 2019.

What’s on the horizon? 

​I'm looking forward to seeing how the program continues and its success. I am aiming to get a career pathway going for the participants completing their first three months of the program. Local traineeships are on offer here in Halls Creek, so it's been a great experience for everyone involved.

The Exchange is Jillian Kilby’s social impact venture, which she personally seed-funded. She was the NSW finalist in AgriFutures 2018 Rural Women’s Awards. The Exchange provides nascent business ideas with the support they need to take their idea from “thought bubble” to reality.

One year on

Establishment of The Exchange in Dubbo. The organisation has more than 3000 online followers increasing the commercial chance of success of start-ups and small business owners. 

What’s on the horizon?

We provide free coworking in a unique partnership with Charles Sturt University. The Exchange is currently refurbishing an 1880s heritage post office and clock tower to serve as its future headquarters. The renovation is providing jobs and saving an abandoned heritage icon.

2019 Finalists

2019 RWA State Winners Plus Judging Panel 100719 2

The 2019 National Winner and Runner-Up of AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award will be announced on Wednesday, 11 September. This year’s state and territory winners (above with judging panel) vying for the National title are:

• Ahn Nguyen, Tasmania
• Belinda Lay, Western Australia
• Claire Moore, Victoria
• Deanna Lush, South Australia
• Natasha Roebig, Queensland
• Zoe Malone, Northern Territory
• Jo Palmer, New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory.

2018 RWA Finalist Videos

Alex Thomas, SA:

Allison Clark, TAS:

Jillian Kilby, NSW/ACT:

Linda Blackwood, NT:

Melissa Connors, VIC: