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A woman’s place is on the farm

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 12.08.17 PMGascoyne celebrates contribution of women ahead of March 8 International Womens Day

The Gascoyne Food Council is joining the push for greater recognition for female farmers this International Womens Day. Given it wasn’t until 1994 that Australia recognised women’s legal status as farmers instead of domestics, helpmates or farmers wives, there is still plenty of work to do.

Women on farms are estimated to make up 50% of the rural workforce and contribute 50% of rural income. However, public perception of who a farmer is and what they look like usually does not evoke an image of a woman.

To address this perception, the spotlight is being thrown on women farmers through a Documentary Australia Foundation project called (In)visible Farmer. The project aims to produce short films to highlight stories of women in agriculture across rural Australia, as well as a long form documentary.

In Carnarvon, Ketut Bassett from Westut Plantation, Joanne Symonds from Bentwaters and Chris Higham from Meedo Station have joined the production.

On Chris’s property, business has evolved from keeping lambs and goats to value-adding and creating pies, curry’s and more.

“I am proud to declare that I am a farmer and a farmers wife,” says Chris Higham, who is also Deputy Chair of the Gascoyne Food Council.

“We’re pastoralists and I value-add our goat and lamb. It started off with the campground next door wanting me to supply camp oven meals. The goat curry became my signature dish. I started going to the markets selling meal packs, and then pies – that’s gone pretty crazy,” said Chris.

“Now it feels like I’m an educator, particularly at the Perth market. The consumer wants grain-free, free-range etc., but they don’t always understand the food production system.”

Gascoyne Food Council Executive Officer Doriana Mangili agrees.

“The challenge for our industry is that it’s not corporate farming, its family run farming which necessitates the involvement of all in the family.  Often it is the women farmers who in addition to work in the field, bring the skills to undertake all the jobs that enable our farms to compete with the corporates and service the major retailers.” said Doriana.

The (In)visible Farmer series’ promo will be launched at the Rural, Regional, Remote Women’s Network of Western Australia (RRR Network) conference in Perth on 7th March.

The Gascoyne’s horticulture industry is currently valued at around $80 – $100 million a year, plus a pastoral industry valued at $25-35 million per year.  There are many incredible women in the Gascoyne who drive innovation and will ultimately share the load in shaping the future of agriculture in the region.

Chair of the Gascoyne Food Council Kate Allen said, “without women farming in our region, we would have no industry.  This International Womens Day we are showing our respect and gratitude towards all our women farmers and the incredible contribution they make to the Gascoyne.”

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