Debbie Dowden, a Western Australian cattle farmer also features in the Visible Farmer series. “The general public looks at women on farms as being ‘farmer’s wives’ [who] send them off to work with a big kiss. That’s not the reality. Living on the land for over 20 years, I could never really categorise myself as anything and after a while I started to reflect and I thought, I have every right to call myself a farmer because this is what I do for a living and I need to stand up and claim it for myself.”
Jane Sale manages three large cattle stations in the Kimberley with her husband and is proud to tell her story. “I came out [to the country], but I didn’t marry into this. It’s a project my husband and I are building together.” With the aim of encouraging others to share their story, Jane founded Central Station, a website, blog and now podcast, giving farmers in outback Australia a voice. Just as farmers are not all men, farming is not just about driving tractors, mustering cattle and fixing machinery. Farming is incredibly technical, requiring strategies around crop & stock supervision and marketing, weather monitoring, as well as water & resource management. Just as gender diversity around the boardroom table or on management teams builds resilience and innovation, our food systems and agricultural industry has and will continue to benefit from more women building careers ‘in Ag’.
In a similar vein, Jade Miles farms alongside her husband Charlie in their orchards at Black Barn Farm, as well as opening up the property to offer nursery and tree sales and a ‘pick your own fruit’ service to the general public. Jade also spends a considerable amount of time travelling around the country running workshops for school children and community groups on various permaculture topics such as grafting and seed saving.
Now more than ever, women farmers need to be proud of what they do and get on board with the growing number of programs designed to support and inspire. The NFF’s Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program is building a nation wide alumni of skilled female leaders who have a vision and commitment to agriculture, while the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award acknowledges the essential role women play in rural industries, businesses and communities.
At a grassroots level, the internet and social media are increasingly important tools to give women a voice. Community organisation, Women Who Farm who feature and celebrate women farmers from around the world, has 123,000 followers on Instagram and their corresponding hashtag #womenwhofarm has been used nearly 250,000 times so far. Armed with the tools, programs and support to stand up and be heard there’s never been a better time for women to tackle the traditional view and tell that world that yes, we are farmers too!