15 Apr The New Breed Farmers
Our male-dominated agricultural industry is undergoing a sex change, with women farmers taking the driver’s seat.
If farming was a gender, it would be male. Australian agriculture has always had a masculine persona. This might be why the average face of agriculture in Australia has been described as a middle-aged male. While there’s no denying women have played an important role as the farmer’s wife, in modern times, women are taking a more active role – looking to the land to build a career. I may be biased (as a female and also as a woman on the land), but there are many reasons why women make able farmers.
They’re multi-skilled, cope well with stress, are logical thinkers, and have assiduous attention to detail – vital when dealing with machinery and technology.It’s an important industry. Farming is our food source – accounting for 93 percent of Australia’s domestic food supply. And with so many young Australians walking off the family farm to live in urban areas, we need all the ‘girl power’ we can get to help keep women (and men) in agriculture. Yet, for some women of the land, the decision to create a career in farming has always been easy. Here are the stories of female farmers making a name for their gender and the changing face of agriculture.
MONIKA FIEBIG, ORGANIC VEGGIE GROWER, GOLDEN GROVE
Monika never meant to be a farmer. She was a registered nurse for 22 years, working in mental health and aged care. But family circumstances saw her swiftly look to the land for income. Starting from scratch, Monika has been farming organic vegetables in the northern suburbs of Adelaide for 14 years.
“I really wanted to work from home so I could look after my two young sons, so turning my 12-acre property into a vegetable farm seemed like an ideal solution,” Monika says. “I am a self-taught horticulturalist, learning skills from colleagues, training courses and other producers.
I started from scratch and have built the business, with my two sons Daniel and Matthew, to where it stands today; we pack on farm, have all our own brandingand sell to retail and wholesale outlets.”From the beginning, Monika wanted to create something different.
She is the brainchild behind Monika’s Organics, a well-known food brand in South Australia. Monika’s Organics specializes in growing 100 percent certified organic produce that is independently audited and fully traceable. She grows seasonal vegetables including spring onions, spinach, kale, and beetroots, plus some leeks, broccoli, and zucchini. She now coordinates 12 staff on the farm, and you can find her doing everything from weeding, packing and driving the tractor to organizing staff, communicating with buyers and suppliers, and filling orders.“As farmers, we have something to offer. All farmers should pat themselves on the back because we are producing food for the nation.
Reprinted from Aspire South Australia April/May 2015