2008 Winners

2008 New South Wales Winner – Tracey Knowland

The use of native plants in the domestic Australian gardening industry

At the time of the Award, Tracey Knowland owned and operated, in partnership with her husband Stuart, the Bangalow Wholesale Nursery in the Bryon Bay hinterland. The nursery’s focus is on the production of premium advanced Australian native trees and shrubs for the Australian landscape and development industry.

They are both actively involved in the nursery industry with Stuart appointed Chair of the Northern Rivers branch of the National Nursery and Garden Industry Association. Tracey is also a member of the Nursery Industry Association as well as being a co-ordinator of the Bangalow Business Women’s Group.

Tracey’s passion is for trialling and developing superior selections of small to medium Australian temperate and subtropical rainforest and coastal tolerant trees, not only for the landscape and development industry, but as a beautiful and sustainable alternative in Australian backyards and gardens.

A number of their tree selections were under trial for plant breeders rights. They were licenced growers of Ozbreed’s Advanced Australian Tree Range being promoted to landscape architects, local councils and tree growers.

With the implications that climate change presented to water availability, along with wildlife habitat and weed invasion, Tracey believed the domestic Australian gardening industry should look more seriously at native plants. She had been lobbying the industry to develop a labelling system that clearly identifies native plants, to allow gardeners to make informed choices and to reduce the risk of weed incursion.

Tracey planned to use the bursary to fund her participation in the 2008 National Nursery & Garden Industry Association National Conference “Seachange for an Essential Industry” to be held in Adelaide. The conference was to be followed by a study tour of Victoria’s largest wholesale nurseries.

Tracey hoped to investigate sustainable growing methods, water saving, recycling, treatment and irrigation along with current tree selections and growing trends.

2008 Victoria Winner – Lisa Mahon

Innovation and the development of a network of herb growers

At the time of the Award, Lisa Mahon owned and operated with her partner Bromley Organics, a certified organic herb farm, specializing in the production of value added dried herbs. Bromley Organics produced six dried herb crops and was one of the largest producers of dried processed stinging nettle in Australia.

In 2006 Bromley Organics won the Most Outstanding Dedication and Innovation in Production Management Grower Award from Southern Light Herbs, against a field of 80 other commercial certified organic herb farmers. Lisa’s vision was to strengthen the certified organic dried herb industry through the sharing of new information and innovation and the development of a network of growers.

She believed the greatest improvements for small to medium scale herb growers would come from the development and implementation of new labour saving technology and in particular improved harvesting equipment.

While there was harvesting equipment available in Australia, it was aimed at the larger scale growers, with the five machines produced commercially in New Zealand at the time unavailable in Australia.

Lisa proposed to use the bursary to undertake a study tour of New Zealand to investigate their harvesting equipment and to see their machines in operation. She also proposed a study tour within Australia of certified organic herb growers to look at other harvesting methods and to extend her network of growers.

2008 National Winner and Queensland State Winner - Ros Smerdon

Benchmarking the Australian avocado industry

Ros Smerdon is an avocado, macadamia and custard apple grower from the Glasshouse Mountains and Chairman of the grower owned cooperative company Nature’s Fruit Company. At the time of the Award she was Vice President of the Australian Custard Apple Growers Association and a member of numerous other horticultural organizations.

Nature’s Fruit Company accounts for around ten percent of the national avocado crop and under her Chair she turned the company round to one of profitability.

Ros is passionate about growers working cooperatively together, to ensure the market consistent lines of supply of quality fruit and in turn ensure growers retain some market power.

There is increasing financial pressure facing the Australian avocado industry, with growers in 2007 witnessing the worst prices for many years, and significant production increases and pressure from imports forecast in the years ahead.

Ros believes the avocado industry will have to become more innovative in product development and marketing, if growers are to remain viable. She sees potential in product innovations such as fresh cut snap frozen product, and new opportunities to grow demand in pharmaceutical, food oil and cosmetic production.

She planned to undertake a study tour of South Africa to benchmark the Westfalia grower cooperative avocado operations and value adding processing plant with the Australian industry. The Westfalia group is held up as one of the most efficient and innovative  grower cooperative’s worldwide.

Her project was to benchmark the state of the Australian avocado industry with that of the South Africa and investigate methods of value adding and oil extraction employed in South Africa and their application to the Australian industry. The outcome of her project was to be a report with recommendations to assist the cooperative venture into value adding and oil extraction, to relieve supply pressure in the Australian industry, through uptake of second grade fruit.

2008 South Australia Winner – Domenica Latorre

Educational programs and practices that benefit rural women

At the time of the Award, Domenica Latorre had over eighteen years experience in horticultural and agribusiness management and over fourteen years experience working with community bodies at a local, state and national level, working with the rural counseling program, TAFE SA and other training bodies. She was sitting on the Regional Advisory Board to the SA Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, on the National Association of Rural Counseling Services and at a state level on the Rural Financial Counseling Service SA and the Riverland Multicultural Forum.

She specializes in working with the cultural and linguistically diverse and has undertaken a number of research projects to raise awareness of workforce development issues.

Domenica is acutely concerned with the significant shortage (and continual decline) of people, skills and workforce currently gripping rural and regional communities, with the culturally and linguistically diverse the most affected group. She believes that many rural women have demonstrated resourcefulness and resilience, in establishing small businesses and generating income critical to the sustainability of their family and their farms.

Her ambition was to focus on exploring educational programs and practices that will benefit rural women, particularly those from CALD backgrounds, their communities and agriculture generally. Domenica had previously designed and delivered a successful pilot for rural women from CALD backgrounds, covering Certificate 111 Business Frontline Management and is currently delivering a customised training program in rural business management for farm enterprises.

She planned to use the bursary to research successful rural business training models, both in Australia and in Europe, to analyse training systems, methodologies and resources and to quantify the most successful relationships between training and sustainable business practices.

She hoped her research would result in training programs that best met the needs of rural women, including women from CALD backgrounds that will in turn contribute to the future profitability of their farm businesses and agriculture. The research was also to be used to develop a training model to support a team of women to train and pass on their knowledge to others in the community.


2008 National Runner-up and Western Australia Winner - Maggie Edmonds

Farm stalls and information centre for fostering smaller producers

Maggie Edmonds has a long history of involvement in Western Australia’s agricultural industries, most notably in the protea flower, passionfruit and olive industries.

Maggie instigated the first local protea growers association in Western Australia and went on to become President of the International Protea Association, responsible for bringing the 6th Biennial Protea Association to Perth.

She established the Gingin Regional Olive Growers Association (GROGs) and organised Western Australia’s first and subsequent two Olive Festivals. She was on the Board of the Australian Olive Association and is a trained judge of olive oil and table olives.

Maggie has also been actively involved in the establishment of farmers markets, having instigated the Wanneroo Farmers Markets and the Gingin markets. Maggie has a solid knowledge and experience in agricultural produce, and in particularly how to value add and niche market it and a passion for sharing her learning’s with producers across the region.

She proposed to establish an information centre and retail outlet, to provide small to medium producers with practical advice and contacts on all aspects of their products and a retail outlet for the sale of their products.

She was to use the bursary to undertake a business improvement program and to fund a study tour to South Africa to learn from their strong tradition of farm stalls and of fostering smaller producers, before establishing the framework for her agricultural information centre.

2008 Tasmania Winner – Jeanette Fisher

At the time of the Award, Jeanette Fisher was President of the Professional Calf Rearers’ Association of Australia and a dairy heifer management consultant.

At the time, Jeanette had close to a decade worth of experience in the dairy industry and in calf rearing and established her consulting business Heifermax in an effort to encourage dairy farmers to adopt more up to date and more financially profitable and animal welfare friendly methods of calf and heifer management.

In 2002 she was awarded the Jack Green Churchill Fellowship, which allowed her to travel to six countries to examine calf and heifer management techniques, specifically veal production, neonatal bovine immunology and the use of natural therapies to reduce antibiotic use.

A cow’s lifetime milk production is determined by three factors: genetics, feeding during the period from birth to first calving and feeding from the time the cow enters the herd. Jeanette believed of these three factors, feed from birth to first calving is the most neglected and impacts negatively on the other two factors.  She believed the financial cost of inadequately reared heifers was far reaching and included the cost of extra heifers, of lost milk production from cows that fail to reach their genetic potential and of catch up growth in mated heifers. She also saw room for reform in industry management practices, and believed the person rearing the calves should also be responsible for heifer management.

Jeanette’s vision for agriculture is an Australian dairy industry in which all replacement heifers have the necessary standard of care from birth through to first calving to become productive members of the milking herd.

Her ambition was to raise industry awareness of the economic importance of good heifer management and to provide learning opportunities to enable calf rearers to become heifer managers thereby acquiring the skills to take heifers from birth through to first calving.

She planned to attend the USA Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Annual Conference and while in the US spend time with internationally recognized calf rearing specialist Dr Sam Leadley. The conference showcased all the most recent research from the vast US industry and surpassed anything the Australian Association had the capacity to stage, while working with Dr Leadley would further develop her dairy consulting management skills.

Jeannette believed the knowledge she would acquire and impart back to her industry, had the potential to not only significantly improve the management practices and the financial profitability of calf and heifer management, but also to up skill women and to elevate their status within the dairy industry to one of more than just the ‘farmers wife’.

2008 Northern Territory Winner – Norma Higgins

At the time of the Award, Norma Higgins boasted some 30 years experience in the Northern Territory pastoral and horticultural industries and owned and operated, with her husband, two horticultural blocks outside Katherine comprising of a total of 6,000 mango trees, 1,000 timber plantation trees and 200 exotic fruit trees.

Norma is very active within her industry, having been involved in the Katherine Horticultural Association since its inauguration and the Primary Industry Training Advisory Council. She, as part of a group of local rural women, was involved in the Primary Industries Leadership Action Group which established the Katherine branch of NT Women in Agriculture. The group was vitally concerned about the future of the region’s horticultural growers, with the majority of medium sized farmers forced to seek off farm income and a number of smaller farmers simply walking away from their farms. They formed the Katherine Region Food Processing Group and were successful in securing funding to establish a community commercial kitchen.

Norma is passionate about future viability of the region’s farmers and the quality of their produce and products and about the future welfare of the town of Katherine and its community. She proposed to establish Katherine’s first weekly producers markets as a venue for showcasing and selling the region’s products and produce.

She believed the markets would not only provide a new avenue to improve the viability of the region’s farmers, but also an opportunity for the local indigenous people to showcase and sell their products and an opportunity to reinvigorate the township of Katherine.

She proposed to use the bursary to fund a study tour of markets in other states, to better understand the mechanics of establishing and operating a farmers market, and to fund the development of a business plan to establish the viability of a market and a website to profile the Katherine market, its produce and products.