Visible Farmer is a unique short-film web series that discovers the untold stories of the gutsy women behind our food and fibre, and the vital, innovative role they play. From remote outback stations to urban market gardens, it’s a journey that will change our perception of who a farmer is.
Meet Chris, the goat farmer, who has reinvented the family business into a gourmet success. Darrylin, an Indigenous cattle farmer and WA’s Rural Woman of the Year, determined to create a better future for her community. Nicole, who steers the family’s grain business with high-tech precision. Ketut, a young mother from Bali who became the farmer by default, now loving every minute of it. Joanne, a true-blue bushy with ‘red dirt in her blood’, who never gave a damn about convention. Or Annabelle, a fifth generation pastoralist, who fought hard to be part of family farm succession, when her mother never stood a chance.
Visible Farmer will showcase the diversity of farming women across different backgrounds, ages and sectors in Australian agriculture. At its heart this project is about education, gender equality and strong, positive stories from Australia’s farming communities . Visible Farmer will give today’s female farmers a contemporary and authentic voice.
Episode 1 – Breaking Free
After 21 years of teaching her children via School of the Air, Debbie finally grabbed her chance to be a hands-on-farmer – and never let go again. She grew up in the city and always dreamt of being a farmer. She got her pilot’s licence and met the man-and-farmer of her dreams. They married and moved to his remote 5th generation pastoral property. But it was a hard landing. Back then, women were expected to look after the homestead and children. Today that view is finally changing.
Episode 2 – Til the Cows Come Home
Back home in Switzerland it was spending time on her godmother’s dairy farm that set Nicole’s heart on becoming a dairy farmer. She decided to join a rural exchange program and work on a farm in Australia. It took her straight to Margaret River. Here she met a dairy farmer and married him. She has never looked back. Fast forward 25 years and Nicole still loves improving everything the family does – from milking to breeding and artificial insemination to operating heavy machinery. It’s that variety that keeps her excited about getting up every day before sunrise.
Episode 3 – Diversify or Die
Reinventing the family sheep station was an unexpected venture – but Chris loves a challenge. Thousands of feral goats were competing for limited feed on the property. The goats are drought resistant and prolific breeders. The challenge was to find a market for them. Chris discovered that consumers are hungry for new culinary experiences, and she cooked up the perfect recipe to turn their sheep business into a gourmet goat success.
Episode 4 – The Accidental Farmer
Ketut stepped from a supporting role into the spotlight to manage a tropical fruit plantation on her own, almost overnight. What started out as a big life style change, to spend more family time with their young children, became a one-women-show when her husband decided to go back to his FIFO career. It was a steep and empowering learning curve. Ketut has grown into a passionate farmer, successfully applying her nurturing skills to kids and plants alike.
Episode 5 – Finger on the Pulse
Farming is high-tech and Nicole’s family farm relies as much on data and connectivity as any business in the city. She is in the farming business. Managing their own grain marketing means Nicole must stay on top of fluctuating daily commodity markets and make instant decisions. If it’s not the market, it’s the weather, the overseas buyers or her own remote community she needs to stay connected with. For Nicole, farming is a challenge and a thrill – find that next opportunity and run with it.
Episode 6 – Against the Tide
Joanne knows what it takes to make a living off ‘the red dirt’ she has in her blood. She’s a 4th generation pastoralist come plantation grower who learned the ropes on her parents’ remote property. She also saw her aunt running her own station at a time when women couldn’t get a bank loan. For decades Joanne ran her own station and wouldn’t take no for an answer. And the blokes? Well, they could work with her or ‘stick their comments elsewhere.’
Episode 7 – Let’s Woman Up
Darrylin is a Jaru woman. She comes from a line of strong and proud Aboriginal women. Her family has been working with cattle all of her life. She remembers being with her grandfather in cattle yards from an early age and she knew that this was what she wanted to do. Today Darrylin is the only woman working on Lamboo Station, owned and run by the Ngunjiwirri Aboriginal Corporation. Her vision to offer training camps to empower local Aboriginal people, earned her the title of WA’s Rural Woman of the Year in 2018.
Episode 8 – Blooming Business
Kathy’s childhood in rural Kent (UK) was shaped by the seasons and the wondrous and magical things you can grow. When their children left home, Kathy and her husband decided to leave their city jobs and start growing ‘food for the soul’. After years of research, they are now operating Australia’s only waterlily farm for the cut flower market. Kathy is proud to be known as the ‘waterlily lady’ who sprinkles a little magic through her close-knit farming community.
Episode 9 – Grown With Love
Roll up your sleeves and be that change you want to see in the world! For Melissa, the urban school girl who tried to convert her mum’s lawn into a veggie garden, the answer was to become a regenerative market gardener. She now grows sustainable food and sells her hand-picked vegetables with a beaming smile at the local farmers’ market. Her most revolutionary farm tool? Social media and that direct connection with her customers. As a young farmer, Melissa hopes that small-scale farming will become a valued and promoted career to inspire more people to make a difference for a ‘greener future’.
Episode 10 – Skills for Life
A high-flying engineer used to managing billion-dollar power plants around the world, Tanuja has found her second calling in something far more down to earth – growing olives and producing multi-award winning oils. What started as a hobby when she and her engineer husband planted their own olive grove to beautify their farmhouse, has become her focus. Tanuja’s vision is to create a fully sustainable and off-the-grid olive farm business that delivers products spiced with flavours from her native India. Engineering has given Tanuja the skills to make things work.
Episode 11 – Building Bridges
Annabelle Coppin is a 5th generation pastoralist who fought hard to be part of family farm succession. It was very different for her mother’s generation. Being challenged by her father about a woman’s traditional role on the station only made Annabelle more determined to prove herself. Fixing bores, flying helicopters and rigging cattle trucks are just part of her work today. Now the young mother is running her own vast cattle station, with a long-term plan to regenerate the country and build a bridge between rural producers and urban consumers.
Episode 12 – Calming the Waters
Self-proclaimed ‘fishwife’ Rhonda has her hands full: sorting the morning’s catch; processing; packaging; marketing, and keeping their seafood business on course. Sixteen years ago Rhonda decided to stop working as a nurse and partnered with her fisher husband. Being her own boss and working as a family is very satisfying. Learning how to ‘deal with male egos in the business’ is sometimes a challenge. Calming the waters has become Rhonda’s speciality. She is proud to have her children on board to revamp and expand the family fishing business.
Episode 13 – To Her Own Tune
What do wine grapes and bagpipes have in common? They take a lot of practise to hit the sweet spot and Suzie loves them both. She is a country girl who always wanted to be outdoors and grow things. University gave her the chance she needed. Suzie realised you don’t need to own a farm to study agriculture and went for it, studying hard and taking every opportunity to get her hands dirty. Picked by Wine Australia in 2015 as one of their Future Leaders, Suzie still is one of only a handful of female grape growers in the country. She is encouraging more women to join her.
Episode 14 – Fitbit for Sheep
How can she keep a closer eye on her lambing ewes during critical times? Every year there are animals that could be saved if she could get to them more quickly. Belinda is passionate about her animals. As a mother of 5, she empathises with her pregnant merinos and the trials of birth. After a whirlwind year of research across the globe, Belinda is now trialling sheep activity trackers that send her real-time alerts via mobile phone if an animal shows unusual behaviour. It’s an innovation that could revolutionise the future of sheep farming and has earned Belinda the title of 2019 WA’s Rural Women of the Year.
Episode 15 – ‘Bitten by the Bug’
The first reaction – yikes! The second – really! Reactions to Paula and her partners’ first insect farm in WA have been ‘interesting.’ Munching on roasted mealworms or crunchy crickets is not to everyone’s taste. Find a way to supplement energy bars, smoothies or ordinary flour with insect powder and all of a sudden there is a market. Paula and her start-up business Grubs Up are passionate about growing protein-packed, high-nutrition food that is sustainable and tasty. Her biggest challenge is to breed enough crickets in her vertical farming shed to produce enough insect powder for the growing health food market.
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