2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women's Award finalists

Ellen Downes, Canowindra

Finalist: 2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women's Award

Ellen Downes

Ellen Downes and her husband Stuart run a mixed farming enterprise at Canowindra in the Central West. A wife and mother to their three young children, Ellen successfully juggles the farm with her career as a regionally based medical specialist, show enthusiast, and stud dairy cattle breeder.

Ellen’s life was thrown into chaos after the sudden death of her father in 2010, as the family grappled with forced succession. She says the experience made her determined to ensure the next generation of farming families have sound planning, robust business structures and inclusive collaboration processes in place, so they are spared a similar situation.

To navigate issues and challenges within their own farm business, Ellen and Stuart became involved with AgEDGE – a not-for-profit group made up of farmers and other agribusiness people who meet quarterly to: review the performance of their business, set goals, and discuss current business challenges.

A unique platform AgEDGE helps members to successfully navigate the highs and lows of agriculture. More specifically it helps them understand their business better; get clarity around decision-making; set and achieve goals, both business and personal; and discuss current business challenges.

Through the award Ellen wants to provide the opportunity for people from all over Australia to become members. In particular, she wants to open the door for women to become more actively involved in the farm business. As part of her award activities she plans to: develop professional marketing video to explain the AgEDGE concept, in conjunction with the development of webinar and social media opportunities and provide more industry networking opportunities to raise awareness of this established, successful model and its ability to enhance family farm business.

Photo: Photography by Pip

Lisa McFadyen, Condobolin

Finalist: 2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women's Award

Lisa McFadyen

Growing up in rural New South Wales Lisa McFadyen is passionate about agriculture and rural communities. A qualified Agronomist and Property Valuer; she lives with her husband and their two young children at Condobolin.

A small business owner, Lisa is the founder and CEO of Secure Impact; a rural property and agri-asset marketplace for Australian farmers, which facilitates agricultural farmland and business transition of farms from expansion, purchase, lease, share farm and divestment at retirement.

Lisa is committed to changing the perception around farm transition and believes the key to driving this change is getting farmers to think about the transition process early. Agricultural land is a key asset of a farming operation so there is a need to nurture land ownership changes and transfer into the new millennium.

It is estimated that 60 per cent of farmers have no known successor. With 50 per cent of farmers expected to sell in the next 10 years due to the ageing farming population, this presents a huge opportunity for the industry to embrace change and ensure our farming land is here for future generations.

Lisa’s project will address some of the challenges which impede sound transition planning; such as land asset transitional issues, an ageing population, lack of capital to enter farm acquisition, and lack of capital within the business.

Her award project will build on her work with farming families and businesses by providing resources, education and assistance to help farmers to shift from a ‘reactive’ approach; often characterised by family law issues, stress, anxiety and sometimes 'forced' succession; to a proactive approach, where more opportunities are created to drive their farm and business forward in a viable and sustainable manner.

Photo: Kelly M Photography

Jo Palmer, The Rock

Finalist: 2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women's Award

Jo Palmer

Jo Palmer is a successful business woman, wife, and mother to two daughters. Growing up in the Snowy Mountains, she studied in Sydney and Wagga Wagga and then worked and travelled overseas before returning to Australia with her husband to the Riverina.

Jo is a connector and loves witnessing the amazing things that happen when people come together. It is this love of connection that was the driving force behind her establishing Pointer Remote Roles – an online platform that facilitates remote work opportunities by connecting businesses all over Australia with talented professionals living in regional, rural and remote regions.

The network of highly qualified and experienced professionals who live in regional, rural and remote areas in Australia is enormous and much of this talent is sitting idle or underutilised, particularly in women. Remote work is the key to future employment with today's workforce moving towards flexible working hours and locations.

After working remotely as a sponsorship manager for a Sydney-based corporation, Jo co-founded sponsorship and event management company, Agri Alliance in 2016. The concept of Pointer Remote Roles evolved as Jo began to look at her network of highly qualified, professional friends living in regional areas who were being underutilised. She realised that not only could Agri Alliance benefit from their skill set and experience, but others could as well. The Australian workforce was missing out on this talent as there was no easy way to connect with these professionals.

Pointer Remote Roles provides a valuable pathway for companies, corporations and government agencies to fill positions with the best candidate for the job, regardless of where they live.

Jo’s project is to create a portal within Pointer’s platform that will help to alleviate road blocks that hold many regional women back from applying for remote work. Barriers such as a lack of confidence and understanding of new technology will be addressed through online resources, training and a formal qualification in remote work. The portal’s resources and training will also educate and support businesses to adopt remote employment.

Photo: Rachael Lenehan Photography

Karin Stark, Narromine

Finalist: 2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women's Award

Karin Stark

Narromine’s Karin Stark is a farmer, mother and environmentalist. Born in Auckland and raised in Perth WA, she lived in England for several years working on projects including the high profile London Cycle Hire Scheme before her heart led her back to Australia to her partner’s cotton farm at Narromine.

For the past five years, and in her current role working part time for ReAqua, Karin has been raising awareness of the benefits of solar pumping for irrigators and the potential it has for reducing emissions and costs. This culminated in their farm installing the country's biggest solar diesel irrigation pump last year.

Karin says farmers are at the frontline of the challenges of climate change so there is opportunity to reduce financial and environmental costs through the adoption of renewable energy.

Through her award project, the inaugural ‘Renewables in Agriculture Conference & Expo’, she wants to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of renewables by farmers and address barriers to uptake such as lack of understanding of the technical feasibility within farming businesses, and the high capital costs.

The conference will bring together farmers, peak industry bodies, suppliers and government representatives, to share stories of farmers successfully using renewable energy, inform participants about the feasibility of bio-energy, wind and solar, and to discuss the challenges and opportunities for future adoption. Importantly, it will build new networks to secure long term partnerships and drive the industry forward.

Photo: Clancy Job