2006 Winners

2006 New South Wales Winner - Kate Schwager

The Rural Town’s Web Package

Kate Schwager is partner in a cotton and wheat share farming enterprise outside Wee Waa in northern NSW and is Coordinator of Wincott, Australia’s largest network of women in cotton.

Kate was instrumental in developing one of the country’s first rural town websites for Wee Waa, to help promote the region’s agriculture and tourism along with the local businesses and communities it supports. The website www.weewaa.com became the central portal for the town and a major source of news and information covering the community as well as a major tool for businesses to promote their services and products.

Her commitment to agriculture and to the rural communities it supports led her to instigating the Rural Towns Package, an easy to use web development program which builds small town websites in a cost and user friendly way.

Kate’s project was to take the Rural Towns Package to communities across the state, as a means of promoting the importance of agriculture to rural communities and attracting tourists and with them much needed revenue to rural areas.

Her objective was that the websites be established by rural women, who have the necessary intimate knowledge of their rural communities, the towns, the businesses and the people, while offering them the opportunity of an alternate income source to their farming businesses.

The package was promoted to a multitude of forums in both New South Wales and Queensland, including the Country Women’s Association Annual Conference in Narrabri, the Australian Cotton Industry Conference at the Gold Coast and the Women on Farm’s Gathering at Grafton.

The package was also promoted across a number of media mediums, including the Australian Women’s Weekly, the Land, ABC radio, and Country Style magazine.

Some thirty five women in rural towns made inquiries about the package with some seven rural town sites established as a result of the package, including Cobar, Narrabri, Moree, Trangie, St George, Hughenden and Wee Waa.

The websites proved extremely successful to those rural towns involved on a number of fronts, with Wee Waa and Narrabri both recording 45-55 advertisers, all sites generating revenue over and above costs and Narrabri and Wee Waa achieving significant revenue results.

Kate believes the Rural Towns Package has been the catalyst for a number of positive outcomes.

She believed the package, for the cotton industry as a whole, improved the awareness of the industry and promoted a more positive understanding of its management practices along with improved publicity of Wincott-Women’s Industry Network Cotton as a network for resources, skills and knowledge, and the opportunity of a new business venture and alternate income stream for a number of rural women.

She also believed the package, for the community, brought the towns involved and their people to a larger and previously unknown audience,  initiated networks and conversations between people inside and outside the towns and brought new investment and tourism into the towns and the broader regional community.

Kate, at a personal level, as a result of her twelve month tenure as NSW Award 2006 Winner dramatically improved her public speaking skills, her leadership skills and credibility as a leader within the industry as well as improved the financial prospects for her business.

The launch of the umbrella site, Southern Cross Communities, was scheduled to take place in 2008. The site would, for the first time, network the towns and communities involved, together with other towns in cyberspace. Southern Cross Communities would become a showcase of rural towns with the objective of promoting the large variety of agricultural industries in Australia.

2006 Victoria Winner - Yvonne Jennings

Yvonne, in partnership with her husband Barry, created their farm machinery business Murray Mallee Machinery out of necessity, when the 1980’s drought and seven bad seasons out of nine forced the closure on their irrigation and dryland farms.

At the time of the Award, Yvonne was President of Swan Hill Business and Professional Women and under her leadership the organisation’s membership tripled.  She had the privilege of being successfully nominated by this group to run for the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games. Yvonne also enjoyed new challenges as an elected Councilor and the only female councilor on the Swan Hill Rural City Council.

She has served as Chair of Swan Hill and District Rural Women for a period of ten years, during which time she convened a number of major initiatives including the ‘Women on Farms’ gatherings and a series of multi skilled workshops and forums for rural women. She was also instrumental in securing the resources for four and preparing nine women from her region to travel to attend the Third World Rural Women’s Congress.

Yvonne’s personal vision is for a rural Australia further enriched by rural women, who are achieving their potential and who have the confidence to create and take up opportunities for the benefit of agriculture and their rural communities.

Her proposed activity involved the development and pilot of an action learning project intended specifically to provide rural women with the support and skills to grow their capacity and their contribution from a local community level to regional, state, and national level and beyond.  The project included numerous opportunities for mentoring and individual support by successful rural and urban women.

Yvonne firmly believes that by empowering rural women, women will do the same to their families, farms and communities, many times over, and also empower other women to create new opportunities and strengthen their rural communities and the primary industries upon which they are based.

2006 National Winner and Queensland State Winner - Martha Shepherd

Putting ‘Value’ into the Value Chain for Australian Native Rainforest Products

Martha Shepherd is a rainforest fruit grower from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland. She has established with her partner David Haviland a highly successful value added rural business which produces a range of gourmet products from native rainforest fruits.

Galeru is a 4.5 hectare farm comprising of some 3,000 native Australian rainforest trees, planted and purpose grown as a high value, environmentally sustainable, small acreage niche crop.

Martha’s project was to develop a viable value chain management model, through which smaller producers could collaborate with regional processors and through the ability of all parties to create more value, and in turn share in the benefits of a larger enterprise.

Her project was borne out of her experiences as a successful small business operator, frustrated by the wide range of opportunities to sell her product, but constrained by the size of her farm and the consequential higher costs and more limited volume of fruits her farm could produce and sell.

The objectives of the project were to research, develop and implement an effective value chain model for Galeru, thereby demonstrating an alternative business model whereby small producers across a range of rural industries could improve their economic viability and sustainability.

The project included a study of value chain management principals, case studies, site visits and interviews to provide both the analysis which could provide guidance in the development of the value chain, as well as information on the business structure, financial and legal implications for prospective partners.

A workshop was attended by seven growers, two processors and all three project mentors, with the result being agreement to form a private company comprising of grower partners, to develop a marketing strategy, engage a marketing agent and attain HACCP accreditation for the new company Galeru Pty Ltd, its partner farms and processors.

Within the value chain model, the partners will be able to ensure their future viability through a number of elements, unavailable to them as individual small producers. These include value added returns of product, improved economies of scale, risk reduction, improved quality decision making, innovation through diversity of skills within the chain and the ability to engage a dedicated marketing agent.

The implications of the project for small producers across rural industries and for rural production in peri-urban zones was expected to be more far reaching than initially anticipated.

On a personal level the project provided Martha with the opportunity to gain a wealth of new skills and knowledge including value chain management skills, financial and legal skills and business and corporate governance skills.

In addition Martha was much sought after public speaker during her tenure as the inaugural Australian RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Winner, having presented or facilitated at 30 conferences and events over the 12 month period.

Martha’s expertise and knowledge of value chain management and peri-urban development was recognized through her appointment as Innovator in Residence for 2007 by the Centre for Rural and Regional Innovation Queensland, a partnership between the University of Queensland, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, where she was toresearch innovative, sustainable agri-food enterprises in the per-urban landscape.

2006 South Australia Winner - Heather Baldock

GM Forum Roadshow

Heather Baldock is a broad acre farmer from Kimba on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and a leader within her regional community and farmer organizations.

Heather and her husband Graeme have always been innovative farmers, being one of the first in their region to adopt minimal and no till cropping practices. This commitment to innovation and new technology coupled with an impending review of the moratorium on GM crops in South Australia was the impetus behind her project.

Her project was to conduct a series of GM Forums across the farming communities of the state, to provide primary producers and rural communities with independent information to make informed decisions about the technology and its longer term impact.

Genetically Modified foods have in them ingredients that have been modified by a technique known as gene technology. The technology allows scientists to alter certain characteristics of a food crop by manipulating and introducing genetic materials from another source.

The GM Forum Roadshow brought together five experts to speak across the breadth of the issue, addressing a total of three hundred and fifteen people at a series of six meetings across rural cropping locations in South Australia between 25-29 September 2006. Forum locations and key note speakers were selected following extensive consultation across rural groups and regional communities.

The Roadshow visited Piednippie via Streaky Bay, Cummins on Eyre Peninsula, Minlaton on Yorke Peninsula, Jamestown in the Upper North, Loxton in the Riverland and Tintinara in the Upper South East. Each forum comprised of addresses by each of the five speakers and a panel session with questions and opinions taken from the floor.

The GM Forum Roadshow was an overwhelming success in increasing the awareness and understanding of genetic modification in crops for those in attendance, as evidenced by the data collated from the road show’s evaluation. Of the 72% of attendees who responded to the evaluation, above average knowledge had increased from 21% to 55 % as a result of the forum, with low knowledge falling from 21% to 2%.

Areas of increased knowledge included the science of genetic modifications, regulations and legislation dealing with GM’s in Australia, production and agronomy of GM’s, storage and handling issues, and domestic and international marketing of GM crops.

In addition 87% of evaluation respondents believed that GM crops have the potential to offer significant benefits, with 42% believing the benefits to be agronomic, while 24% perceived benefits in increased yields and economic returns, 14% in reduced chemical usage, and 10% in flow on health benefits.

The data collected from participants attending the forums was collated and published and at the time represented the most up to date information, opinions and concerns of South Australia’s primary producers and rural communities on GM technology.

Heather’s report on the Forums findings was forwarded to sponsors, agricultural organizations, relevant State and Federal politicians and other individuals with a keen interest in GMs. It was also listed as a reference in the bibliography of the SA Moratorium Review of GM Crops Information Paper.

She has also presented her data publicly to the Oilseeds Market and Research Update in Mt Gambier, SA Advisory Board of Agriculture, SA Partners in Grain Reference Group, SA Liberal Party Rural and Regional Council, at a private meeting with the Minister for Agriculture-the Hon. Rory McEwen and at numerous other forums.

The GM Forum Roadshow was the first major event that Heather had sole responsibility for, and as a result her knowledge of GM crops grew considerably, with some valuable new networks, along with her confidence in her skills and abilities.

Specific skills and abilities acquired include research and information dissemination, event management, teamwork, facilitation, public speaking and media interviews. The Award also afforded her the resources to participate in some professional self-development by way of the Technology of Participation (TOP) Facilitative Leadership Program and the South Australian Rural Leadership Program, the Australian Institute of Company Directors course and media workshops.

2006 National Runner-up and Western Australia State Winner - Bev Logue

Bev Logue along with her husband run a family broad acre share cropping business, comprising of 8,000 hectares, north of Geraldton.

They are committed to sustainable farming practices, including amongst the latest technology tramline minimum till with satellite guidance systems, with the marginal nature of their country leading the Logue’s to implement improved water harvesting through wide row spacing trials already underway and shielded spraying in the planning.

At the time of the Award, the Logue’s were also licensed bio-diesel manufacturers for 35,000 litres and have been operating farm machinery on canola based bio-diesel blends for the past three seasons.

Bev’s vision is to see Australian farmers and the broader rural community embrace bio-diesel as an economic and environmentally friendly alternative fuel, sourced from renewable resources, that also frees farmers from their dependence for fuel on the three major oil companies.

The bio-diesel the Logue’s produce on farm is equitable in price to the cost of petroleum diesel, is less toxic than mineral diesel and completely biodegradable and can reduce emissions by up to 70% as compared to petroleum diesel.

Bev was involved in establishing a cooperative canola milling facility for the Northern Agricultural Region, in conjunction with a proof of concept project for regional bio-diesel production for the farming community of Binnu.

National, state and local interest in the bio-diesel resulted in workshops, media interviews, meetings with state parliamentarians and government organizations and presentation to a number of farmer groups, along with discussion with the Australian Taxation Office.

Bev proposed activity involved professional business coaching to enhance her business management, communication and negotiation skills. She also planned to undertake an interstate study tour to better understand bio-diesel production and demand for the product and its potential by-products.

2006 Tasmania Winner - Heather Chong

Seasonal labour in the horticultural industry

At the time of the Award, Heather Chong was Chief Executive Officer of QEW Orchards, a 48,000 tree apricot orchard in southern Tasmania, which produced around 1,000 tones of fresh apricots each year for the domestic and export markets.

Heather was also Chair of Summerfruit Australia, the peak industry body for summerfuit growers in Australia.  She also sat on a number of industry organizations, including the Rivers and Waters Supply Commission, the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research Advisory Board and Women in Horticulture export working group.

Heather believes a shortage of seasonal labour is reaching critical levels within the horticultural industry nationally to the point of damaging industry’s continued prosperity. She believes the labour shortage is the result of a combination of factors, including a strong economy and commensurate low level of unemployment and an increasingly negative general perception to working in agriculture.

Her proposed activity involved a study tour to Canada and Ireland to investigate ways their industries combat the same issue, combined with travel to the Swan region of Victoria and northern Tasmania to investigate the impact this shortage is having in other horticultural districts with the expectation of applying new learning’s from overseas on the domestic industry.

In Canada a scheme called the Commonwealth Caribbean and Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program was employed for predominantly migrant workers, while in Ireland the Northern Irish Scheme caters principally for students from Eastern Europe. Under both schemes the rights and obligations of both the employer and employee are protected and regulated to ensure everyone is looked after.

Heather believes there will be aspects of both schemes that could be utilised and employed to produce a scheme that could meet Australian conditions and constraints. She hoped the information learned from her studies will form the basis for further discussion between industry and government and set the seed for a similar scheme in Australia.

2006 Northern Territory Winner - Janette Hintze

The Northern Territory Cut Flower Industry

Janette Hintze is one of the pioneers of the Northern Territory cut flower industry, having been one of the original group of growers selected to trial heliconias and gingers as a suitable commercial cut flower in 1986.

Jan was instrumental in establishing the Northern Territory Horticultural Association’s Cut Flower Group, which she became President of in 1999 and its spokesperson for many years.

The Northern Territory Cut Flower Industry is still a relatively new one, having been introduced as a commercial proposition by the Department of Primary Industry in the mid-eighties. At the time of the Award the industry was dominated by two species, the Heliconia which originated from tropical central America and the Ginger flower from south east Asia.

Jan believes that the industry needs to be constantly updating and introducing new varieties in order to stimulate and satisfy market demand.

Her project involved a study tour to the 4th International Symposium on the Zingiberaceae family, held in Singapore, to meet with experts in their field and commercial growers from across the world, to learn of latest advances in breeding and production and to source out new varieties for importation back to the Territory.

Her project also involved visits to the eastern seaboard flower markets, including Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, to inspect the quality of tropical cut flowers and demand for the product and to discuss with buyers any issues they may have with packing and freight of product to market.

The Symposium was attended by some 200 industry delegates, with topics covered including genetic classifications using DNA technology, tissue culture propagation, exploration and collection of threatened species and traditional and holistic medical uses for the ginger species.

Jan’s attendance at the conference proved extremely valuable in meeting and talking to numerous delegates involved in the collection and cultivation of gingers. She also discovered a new variety of ginger flower, a Costus Spicatus flower but of yellow colour, called the Indian head Ginger, not previously available in Australia, which she subsequently imported and planted out.

Jan’s tour of the flower wholesale markets also proved valuable. She spoke with a collection of buyers, on and off market wholesalers, stallholders, and florists.  She was surprised and disappointed by the lack of volume of tropical flowers on sale across the eastern seaboard markets, however wholesalers and buyers proved generally happy with the quality of the stock on arrival to market and therefore had few problems with the handling and freight of product.

Given that Jan is one of only a handful of tropical growers who have had the opportunity to attend an international conference or visit the eastern seaboard wholesale markets, the end destination for the majority of their product, the implications of this project not only at a personal level, but on the Northern Territory cut flower industry will be quite significant.

Information from the international symposium and her learnings from the wholesale markets was collated and disseminated to growers across the industry, with a presentation to the Territory’s flower growers planned. The new variety the Indian Head Ginger, which Janette imported, was expected to be in full flower production and available to other growers by the end of the 2007 wet season.