WOMEN from all walks of Australia’s horticulture industry gathered at the Hort Connections 2018 conference to celebrate unsung food heroes – our “invisible farmers”.
Sponsored by Boomaroo Nurseries, the Women In Horticulture event aimed to give a voice to and encourage the continuing support of the female farmers who make up nearly 50 per cent of industry employees.
Raising much needed funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), both women and men dressed in pink to support those affected by breast cancer.
It is estimated that 3157 people in Australia will lose their battle with breast cancer in 2018 – which equates to around eight women a day and 28 men over the year.
Ausveg deputy chair, Belinda Adams said the event, held during Go Pink Week, was a great chance to raise funds for research.
“In addition to raising money on the day, we have set up an online fundraising page to reach our target of $5000,” Mrs Adams said.
“This money will go towards research into the prevention and early detection of breast cancer, which will hopefully increase the chances of survival for all those who are affected by the disease.”
Speaking at the event, well-known journalist Pip Courtney said she had been personally touched by the disease with her mother diagnosed last year.
“This event is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the pivotal role that women play in the horticulture industry,” Ms Courtney said.
“It’s a highlight of the Hort Connection program and provides us all an opportunity to network and reflect on the ways women bring diversity, inclusion and leadership to the Australian horticulture industry.”
Presenting her first story on women farmers back in 1994, Ms Courtney said she has been witness to the evolution of female farmers across Australia.
“The stories we pursued in the media had a variety of themes that we wouldn’t really do today but, back then, they were big news,” she said.
“They were about women participating in the physical side of agriculture – driving tractors, riding horsing, shearing sheep and the other story was [about] women running their own farms – by choice, by inheritance or by being widowed or separated.
“They were an oddity and they even had trouble getting banks to back them,” she said, adding she had the opportunity to speak to women driving change, diversifying and adding to the family business.
“Few of those stories were about leaders - now there are women in all aspects of agriculture in leading roles.”
Ms Courtney said women in current leadership positions had contributed to their communities with ideas and most importantly, positive PR, bringing city and country together.
“I think women better understand that ag has to take city people with it, not berate townies because they don’t ‘get’ your world,” she said, adding rural women on social media are connecting with their city counterparts ‘rural family to rural family’.
Ms Courtney called for unity in horticulture, posing a challenge for current and potential female leaders.
“Unity. It is so important and yet horticulture is so fragmented. Women must talk to the men and explain that political irrelevance is the cost of disunity,” she said.
“Lobby, talk, convince, take the lead and deliver unity to your sector.”
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