2007 Winners

2007 New South Wales Winner - Eleanor Cook

A Community Foundation

Eleanor Cook is an organic beef cattle producer and a strong community advocate for the Coolah district and for regional communities. She was instrumental in securing $1.5 million worth of community development funds for Coolah which provided for the Heritage Restoration Program, the Community Technology Centre and the Healthy Living Program.

Eleanor’s Award ambition was to establish a Community Foundation, to minimize the fund raising effort required by smaller rural communities, and provide a system where individuals, families and businesses could bequeath or donate funds to their chosen rural community or to a specific project within a community.

Eleanor undertook research into a number of different models, including the Macro Melbourne, the Buderim Border Trust and Tomorrow Today  Benalla in Victoria and the de Le Hunte Shire model in South Australia.  She also used the Bursary to attend the 2007 Philanthropy Australia Conference in Albury, the annual conference of executives of philanthropy foundations from across Australia.

Eleanor found the task of establishing a community foundation to be significantly more complex than first anticipated, in particular the intricacies of tax laws and the importance of setting up the correct structure initially for the long term success of the entity.  She concluded that a feasibility study and a lot more research would be required to compare the structures and objectives of existing foundations; to determine which best fits the needs of isolated rural and regional communities.

On a personal level Eleanor was accepted as a participant into the Australian Rural Leadership Program, which she has found immensely challenging. The Award created the opportunity for her to work with the Graingrowers  Association to engage more women in the grain industry. In addition the media and public speaking opportunities had were valuable to her personal and professional development and to the profile of the Award.

2007 National Winner and Victorian State Winner - Deborah Bain

National Farm Day

Deb Bain is a wool and lamb producer from western Victoria and the founder of Farm Day. The vision behind Farm Day is to foster a greater understanding of farming amongst urban Australians through a farming family sharing their life with a city family for a day of fun, friendship and understanding, and an insight into how the modern farmer operates and how it affects our daily lives.

Farm Day was successfully trialed in Victoria in 2006 and Deb used the Award and its Bursary to grow her business and corporate governance skills to take Farm Day to all other states in 2008.  On the last weekend of May 2007 Farm Day went national and was hailed a huge success. More than 1000 families registered to take part in the event and 600 families, connected up. For many, it was their first time on a farm.

Farm Day’s national debut was the result of Deb bringing together a group of people and organisations that shared a common vision for bridging the urban-rural divide.  In the process she established a not for profit company, Farmday Ltd and appointed a board of directors. Sponsorship for the event was provided by RIRDC and Meat and Livestock Australia. Advice was sought from numerous sectors across Australia to gain insight into the rural landscape in each state and an understanding of the effects of the divide. A website was developed that simplified the matching process and enabled participants to register on line.

In 2007 the work was managed by Deb but 2008 saw the event grow substantially and a secretary appointed and IT infrastructure put in place to manage the increased traffic, with five local women employed to help with the administration.  In total one thousand families registered to participate, of which over 600 families were matched.

The event has significantly improved awareness of farmers and their commitment to environmental sustainability. 90% of city respondents now have a better understanding of the role of farming in their daily lives with 98% more likely to buy Australian produce as a result. In addition 86% of city participants believe Australian farmers produce the safest food in the world and are committed the enhancing and protecting the environment, with 99% of city participants affirming farmers as important members of Australian society.

The work involved in achieving the success of this event was aided greatly by the skills, and confidence gained by participating in the AICD course and other training offered during her RIRDC year.

Deb was invited to participate in the Australia 2020 Summit, and was subsequently appointed to the National eHealth Transitional Authority and the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Council. During 2008 Deb travelled extensively and spoke at numerous events, including the Rural Press Clubs of Victoria, NSW and Queensland, the Rural Women’s Network and the Liebe Group of WA, Leadership Plus in Melbourne, Ballarat Business Leadership Group and the Loddon Murray Leadership Group, along with the Marcus Oldham Ag College and Secondary Careers Councilors for Dookie Agricultural College.

On a personal note the Award elevated Deb’s profile and that of Farm Day. It provided her with a platform to communicate the voice of primary industries to a broader audience and to debate issues and challenges pertinent to primary industries and its people.

2007 Queensland Winner - Sonya Maley

Sugar Cane Separation Technology

At the time of the Award, Sonya Maley was Managing Director of Resis Australia, a company she established to commercialize the technology of Cane Separation.

Sonya’s Award ambition is to improve the sugar industry’s future and the rural communities which depend on it, through the commercialization of this new value adding technology.

Cane separation technology allows for each part of the cane plant to be cleanly separated into wax, rind fibre, pith fibre and high purity juice for further value adding.

Sonya used the bursary to undertake a study tour of the United States, the birth place of the technology, where she met with the technology’s developers and food processing companies to assess the technical constraints to its commercialization. She found the tour invaluable in identifying the knowledge gaps and new areas of research and alliances required for the technology’s commercialization.

A collaborative research program was forged with the James Cook University focusing on processing sugar cane juice through specialized membrane filtration technology. A master collaborative agreement with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries with their Innovative Food Technologies Unit in Brisbane was to develop new healthy food products from cane utilizing the separation technology as the primary front end processing equipment.

In addition, Federal Government funding was secured through the AusIndustry Commercial Ready Plus Program, to develop new processing technologies for separated cane and to independently verify the health science behind cane juice and dietary fibres.

Early indications of price improvements pointed to a three-fold increase based on the juice product alone, and did not include the potential opportunities from the fibre and wax products. Results suggested the antioxidant content of the juice products to be higher than that found in freshly squeezed apple juice, presenting major opportunities to substitute imported apple and grape juice concentrate as the major sweetening base for health and fruit drinks.

The impact of the project was best measured by the rapid increase in the technology’s development since its completion in July 2007, with early stage commercial production anticipated in 2009 in collaboration with small and large Australian owned food and beverage manufacturers and the first large scale processing plant expected to be established in 2010.

On a personal level the skills and information learned through the Australian Institute of Company Directors course proved extremely valuable to the development of Sonya’s company while the media platform, public speaking engagements and networks provided through the Award proved invaluable to the pursuit of her vision of commercialization of cane technology.

2007 National Runner-up and South Australian State Winner - Abi Spehr

Working Her Out – Research into the Mother & Daughter-in-Law dynamic and its Impact on Family Farms

Abi Spehr is partner in a fourth generation mixed grazing and cropping property on South Australia’s Limestone Coast and a successful rural facilitator, coach and mediator. As a city girl moving into a very traditional farming family, Abi is committed to understanding the dynamics of farming families and the impact of the dynamics of relationships on the long term sustainability of the farm business.

Abi’s Award ambition was to write a book on the relationship between the mothers and daughters-in-law and its impact on the farming family business to be titled “Working Her Out”. Her study sought to understand why and how mothers and daughters-in-law negotiate their relationships, highlighting how their experiences have impacted on the farming family business, succession and on family relationships.  Her research included case studies of numerous individual relationships combined with workshops, interviews and correspondence. Workshops were held in the York Peninsula, the Limestone Coast and Kangaroo Island in South Australia and at Kukerin in Western Australia.

A critical number of women attended the workshops, representing both the mother and daughter-in-law viewpoints, with a number of the elder women representing both roles, so providing a richness of insight into the dual challenges.

A number of critical enabling themes evolved from the study including:

  • Over and above the challenges intrinsic in any new mother daughter-in-law relationship, the farming industry brings with it its own unique problems.
  • Power and control by the mother-in -law in regard to personal and professional needs, and at the exclusion to farm business decision making, was an outstanding theme.
  • Traditional family roles, farming family culture and common respect and decency all play a part.

The research highlighted the complexity of Australian rural women’s lives and more specifically the lives of mothers and daughters-in-law. The study also provided insights into the actions and transfigurations of individuals when dealing with farm businesses.  Most importantly analysis of these women’s stories emphasized the need to recognize the unique discourse of the mother and daughter-in-law relationship and its impact on the farming family business.  Abi’s research document received strong interest from Primary Industries and Resources South Australia to use the paper for the purposes of policy and planning. The paper was released to PIRSA, the South Australian Farmers Federation, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Landmark.

Abi was in strong demand to speak on the topic and attended the Social Science Conference in Tuscany where the paper was accepted for presentation and debate within the program. She believes the paper has contributed in a progressive way to public discussion and debate on a very significant farming family conversation. On a personal level, Abi believes the research has had a deep and direct impact on her relationships within her extended family.

2007 Western Australian Winner - Pamela Lincoln

ROSS Markets – Good, clean and fair food direct from paddock to plate

Pamela Lincoln is a boutique winemaker producing the Oranje Tractor label and a passionate and proactive advocate for the Great Southern region and its primary produce. Pam was responsible for establishing the highly successful weekly Albany farmers markets in 2002. The success of those markets meant they had been ‘full’ for the previous three years, equating to lost opportunities for new producers and for the smaller satellite towns surrounding Albany.

Pam’s Award ambition was to establish a series of ROSS markets at wineries within the region on a weekly rotational basis. The original plan was that weekly markets be established along the regional, organic or sustainable and seasonal principles at wineries in at least three towns in the Great Southern region.  The principle aim of the markets was to provide fledging agricultural businesses and established food producers with new opportunities to direct market their goods, thereby maximising profits, minimising food miles and ensuring sustainability of their business and increased food security for the region.

The process of initiating a new series of markets proved exhaustive, from planning and conducting information workshops, canvassing producers and stakeholders, establishing a management committee, incorporating a body to plan and manage the project, to applying for additional funding from local government and philanthropic organisations, developing a market charter, business plan, marketing plan and venue agreement, through to the appointment of a market manager and market coordinator.

The first ROSS market was successfully conducted at Plantagenet Winery at Mt Barker, and was attended by several hundred people who bought all six stallholders out of produce.

The ROSS markets were officially launched at Oranje Tractor Winery during the Taste of Great Southern Festival, with all markets having completed at least two trades in each location.  While it is too early to measure the benefit of the markets to the region, all participating producers had access to new markets and demand for their product and all have as a result reported increased turnover.

On a personal level, the Award provided Pam with further training and development, particularly through participating in the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, and afforded her the opportunity to see her vision become a reality.

2007 Tasmania Winner - Rachael Treasure

Working Dog Training e-Book

Rachael Treasure is a sheep producer, working dog breeder and trainer and an internationally acclaimed author. Her novels, Jillaroo, The Stockman and The Rouseabout have been written to inspire the next generation into agriculture and to educate the mainstream on farming, and have been published and sold into the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.

The focus of Rachael’s Award activity was to write a working dog training book to educate people in the livestock industry on how to handle their dogs and their livestock with more empathy and enjoyment, not just for the business bottom line, but for the benefit and enrichment of their lives.

Her desire to have the information available to the public in a more efficient and cost effective way, saw her project evolve from a traditional to an e-book publication to be rolled out in stages. The first stage was the publication of a series of electronic dog training books available cheaply via the internet. In developing the book Rachael had to document the entire process of training up a pup; that is engaging a pup in the training process and then recording it. The second stage of the process was downloadable dog training video clips, available in two minute segments on You Tube that provide visual documentation of training a pup from start to finish.

Rachael believed the final stage, involving taking the dogs out to the yards and recording their actions onto an iPod, would be the most powerful, allowing others to utilise the clips in their own yard while training up their own young dogs.

Rachael believes this information is one of the first of its kind to be available is this format to cater specifically to the rural community.

She officially launched her e-book titled ‘Working Women and Hot Dogs” at Agfest – Tasmania’s premier field day event and conducted training workshops at a Tasmanian Rural Women’s Gathering.

The information was planned to be available in a printed book format and a DVD format once an appropriate publisher was confirmed.

Rachael believed having the information available in a number of different mediums would maximise its reach, with the benefits way beyond dog trainers and rural communities.

On a personal level, the Award has provided Rachael with the funding to attend a Low Stress Livestock Handling course which she found immensely valuable and the Award has extended her skills and knowledge base to include competencies in e-book publishing and in film production.

2007 Northern Territory Winner - Tracey Leo

Northern Territory’s horticultural industry’s future labour requirements

At the time of the Award, Tracey Leo had been intrinsically involved in the Northern Territory horticultural industry for the previous 20 years, from mango farms, to tourism bus operator, to tropical fruit and flower marketer to human resources manager. Throughout her seasonal employment in primary industries Tracey continued to develop her own business.

At the time of the Award Tracey was employed as Principal Officer of the Northern Territory Horticultural Association, with her primary responsibility being employment and human resource issues including labour shortages.  She believed that the Northern Territory was still in its early stages of economic development, and that primary industries and the rural communities it supports will be critical to the general economy reaching its full potential, and that they must be nurtured and supported.  She also believed that with labour costs representing over 50% of total production costs for many rural industries, understanding labour requirements and developing strategies to address shortages would be critical to the Territory’s rural industries future and success.

Tracey’s proposed activity was to develop a profile of the Northern Territory’s horticultural industry’s future labour requirements and the capacity for industry to manage those requirements.  She planned to travel to horticultural regions across the Territory, to interview growers and stakeholders first hand and learn from their experiences and challenges of securing labour. The trip would also include the National Harvest Labour Information Service in Mildura to review strategies employed by more mature horticultural regions.

Tracey believed that by conducting the review with strong input from its growers and stakeholders, the industry would be able develop a comprehensive understanding of future labour requirements and the capacity for industry to meet those requirements. She believes that only through substantiated data would industry be able to develop successful future harvest labour strategies.