A secure future for farming

lisaLisa McFadyen, Condobolin
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Growing up in rural NSW, 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. Lisa is also a 2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award finalist.

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.

‘I have a strong passion for the agricultural industry; to learn new things, make positive change, and to help others with change. I believe that communities are built strong from the people.’

Through the business, Lisa hopes to pave the way for a long-term, sustainable, and viable future for the Australian agriculture. She says the open marketplace facilitates transparency and trust for farmers, allowing more opportunities for connections to drive their business.

‘My business focus is farmland and agricultural business transition, through implementation of innovative business and ownership structures. Because if you get the ownership structure right, it opens up opportunities for value-added enterprises to drive production and make a business thrive, whilst continuing to meet the rising food and fibre demands.’

With agricultural land a key asset of a farming operation, Lisa says there is a need to nurture land ownership changes and transfer into the new millennium. Whether it’s through lease, share-farming, equity partnerships, joint ventures or property trusts, she says we must improve business partnerships at a land asset and farming operation level to move forward.

‘My main drive is being proactive and innovative in how we look at and tackle challenges. Getting farmers to think about the transition of their farms much earlier is a critical step in driving this change.’

Lisa says changing perceptions around farm transition starts with a shift in focus.

‘A change in mindset around how farmers plan for ownership and retirement, how they develop their skills, training and knowledge, as well as being proactive in making changes to business, is the key to driving this change and getting farmers to think about the transition process early.

‘I want to build on my work with farming families to adopt a more proactive approach to succession by making them aware of the options available. I want to plant the seed to let them think about their options, provide resources and give them access to advisor to aid their decisions.’

Lisa has plans to provide resources, education and assistance to help farming families 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.

She hopes this will help to address some of the challenges that 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.

‘More than 90 per cent of Australian farms are family farms. In order for farming businesses to thrive, we need to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of effective planning and growth.

‘It’s estimated that 60 percent 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.

‘We want older generations to still have an interest in farming, but we also want to open opportunities for the younger generation to enter farming.’

‘I am excited about the opportunities the Award will provide and look forward to seeing my vision unfold.’

P. 0448 366 395
E. lisa@secureimpact.com.au
W. www.secureimpact.com.au
Facebook: @SecureImpact
Twitter: @SecureImpact

Posted in agriculture, Awards, business, Communities, Families, farming, primary industries, rural women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rural Resilience Program

James-Cleaver-1By James Cleaver, Dubbo
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

The year is 1984 and my mother meets a young rugby player at Country Week at TG Millner Oval. By 1986 she’s left the unit in Paddington, got married and followed him to the grazing capital of NSW, Nyngan. She moves into a cottage with corrugated iron walls which is a bain-marie in summer and like an esky in winter. She starts teaching at the Nyngan Primary School and this coincides with a short stint at taking up smoking for stress relief. As a young couple, they’re spreading their wings and saving to pay off their first farm. The year is 1989.

Then the Wool Crisis hits, followed by foot rot, followed by the flock reduction scheme, followed by 24% interest rates on their farm mortgage – all in one year. Then my heavily pregnant mum gets flown out of Nyngan in a helicopter during the floods. As a rural woman she’s taken more hits than Mohammed Ali, and this takes place all by the age of twenty-eight. These hits keep coming with two droughts, school fees for four kids, locust/mouse plagues and further floods – just to name a few.

If you rate resilience on a person’s ability to bounce forward through adversity, then my mother has passed with flying colours. I’m twenty-eight now and it’s amazing to reflect on other generations and the challenges they had faced in the same time frame.

Last year, I was handed the opportunity to join the NSW DPI’s Rural Resilience Program. It’s a unique program, with only twelve members which covers our entire great state. Beforehand I was sitting in an office as a Lawyer writing old peoples wills and settling house deals – I loved the people I worked with; but I felt pigeon holed by the profession. So somewhat naively, I became a Rural Support Worker in the middle of a roaring drought. To be honest it’s been like jumping into a wash machine and hitting spin cycle.

My Grandmother nearly had a heart attack when I told her that I was giving up law to join a Government Service. But to get the opportunity to talk farming every day with country personalities truly makes this role a dream job.

Since then I have met some amazing personalities, from politicians, to governors, to CEO’s but most importantly I have got to know the local farming personalities of rural NSW. Life throws up many challenges and these are only exacerbated by the impact of drought. From Lithgow to Nyngan, Gilgandra to West Wyalong – these farmers and their families continue to amaze me with their fortitude.

So what is the Rural “Resilience” Program? Sometimes I feel like I will get shot on sight for even mentioning the “R” word. But what makes someone “resilient” is their use of reliable networks, how they access new information for innovation and how they view adversity as a challenge rather than a barrier. This can be a tough ask when you’ve got your head down working in the difficult circumstances. So that’s where the Rural Resilience Program comes in.

The Rural Resilience Program looks to simplify what Government & Non-Government services are available, and then to support capacity building of farmers so we can overcome any challenge that is thrown our way. We make sure we do this with other services to ensure that our approach is organised and services aren’t duplicated. Meaning, if you have a difficult question – we’ll point you in the right direction.

At age 28, I’m only just starting my journey in Agriculture. I’d be a fool to suggest that there won’t be a lot of challenges along the way. After meeting many other services and people which work in our great industry – I can say that we’re in great hands. But I also find great strength and inspiration from my mother, a rural woman, who was able to overcome such challenges and bounce forward.

The Rural Resilience Program can help farming families by:

  • Creating opportunities to connect with others in farming communities, as well as connecting with support services.
  • Providing information, tools and development opportunities that build skills, knowledge and experience.
  • Supporting families while recovering from adverse events and helping them prepare for the future.
  • Listening to farming needs and issues and communicating these to policy makers.

Need help to find out what assistance is available to you, your family, business or community?  Get in touch with your local DPI Rural Resilience Program team member; they are here to help you.

Contact  the Rural Resilience Team

Location Team Member Mobile Email
Bourke Grace Murray 0439 531 107 grace.murray@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Broken Hill Ellen Day 0427 639 761 ellen.day@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Coffs Harbour Jen Haberecht 0400 160 287 jen.haberecht@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Condobolin Lisa McFadyen 0437 606 860 lisa.mcfadyen@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Coonabarabran Sue Freebairn 0429 212 368 sue.freebairn@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Coonamble Amanda Glasson 0438 082 731 amanda.glasson@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Dubbo James Cleaver 0408 687 165 james.cleaver@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Goulburn Ted O’Kane 0427 781 514 ted.okane@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Hay Danny Byrnes 0400 374 258 danny.byrnes@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Scone Karen Sowter 0400 869 136 karen.sowter@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Tamworth Ray Weinert 0447 634 507 ray.weinert@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Taree Peter Brown 0437 671 459 peter.v.brown@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Tocal Liane Corocher 0427 188 643 liane.corocher@dpi.nsw.gov.au

For more information visit: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/rural-support/RRP


Posted in agriculture, business, Communities, Families, farming, inspirational, rural resilience officer, Rural Support Workers, rural women, The Country Web | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Family Farm – Adapting – Thriving – Growing

DSC_3937RGBy Julie Andreazza, Willbriggie, NSW Farmer of the Year 2018
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Three weeks after losing my father to a sudden and fatal heart attack, I found myself in the ED at Griffith Base Hospital, again. When the Doctor approached me and told me my husband was having a heart attack I was in complete disbelief.

When I saw him, hooked up to what seemed like every machine in the hospital, I knew it was real. As he looked at me and said, ‘Make sure you claim the life insurance so you can pay off all the debts’, my heart sank. I could not believe this was happening. And so began the roller-coaster of what could have easily been the end of our family as we knew it, but instead, it was a defining moment where I knew I had to step up.

Like everyone else I am a normal person doing my best to live the best life I can with my family – raising our kids and running the business the best we can. But, as Glen would say, life has a way of ‘throwing logs in front of us’ and it’s up to us to decide if we are going to say ‘that’s just too hard to get over’ or ‘watch me climb over this one too!’ And climb is exactly what we did.

Winning NSW Farmer of the Year in 2018 has been humbling and an honour, especially given how many logs we have had to jump to get here.

I think what makes farming business different to other businesses is that usually it is a family farm. And I’m sure, like us, most farms have a heavy personal input from most family members. Our challenge as partners, wives and mothers is to balance all the dynamics of family life and business, while keeping the family stable and maintaining a thriving business.

So this is my story:

Together with my husband Glen (who is now fit and healthy) we own two properties totalling around 370 ha and we lease a further 265 ha from my father-in-law, south of Griffith in the Riverina Food Bowl. We produce rice, wheat, and more recently corn.

Farming has always been Glen’s passion. He started work on his father’s farm at 15-years-old and then, after we married, Glen and I purchased our first farm in 1991.

Working with my in-laws for many years, Glen decided it was time to split the business and we became business partners in 2003. This was possibly the worst time to venture out in a farming business. It was the beginning of the millennium drought and we had entered into huge debt to purchase our property and we had to buy our own machinery.

I did my best to support Glen in any way I could but it was tough. Back then Glen had no one to bounce ideas off and although I worked hard on the farm, he was the business brain and felt the pressure of having to make all the decisions.

By 2006, the drought was biting and we decided to sink an irrigation bore. It was a huge undertaking but meant that we got 700 ml extraction (the neighbour behind only got 350 ml). As it was one of the first bores to be drilled in our area it was a huge gamble, but Glen was convinced it would give us more water security so we could grow copes and not be constrained by almost zero water allocations during the drought. He was right. Even though we entered into more debt to pay the $600 000 bore, it saved half the wheat crop that year and has paid for itself over and over since.

At the same time we used our overdraught to convert part of our general security water to high security. This paid off too and we now have water security 95 per cent of the year, compared to general security which ‘gives us whatever we are going to get, which this year was only seven per cent’.

Glen staying on top of our water portfolio has made all the difference in our ability to farm. The mixed portfolio allows us to grow crops every year and after the heartache of having to shut off the water to our rice crop in 2005, and watch our lively hood die in front of our eyes, Glen set out to never let this happen again.

We got over that log, then, as life would have it another was thrown in front of us when the farm next door came up for sale. Now anyone who owns a farm knows that these opportunities don’t come up very often and we literally jumped at the chance to own more land. There was no negotiation. We paid what the neighbour asked and signed on the dotted line before he could change his mind.

That was in 2008. Life was good but very tight. We were in huge debt, were both working fulltime, and we were juggling a hectic family life with four young children.

We were constantly looking for opportunities to help the business thrive and by 2012 we installed a 9.9 kilowatt solar system which supplies the house and the sheds. It paid for itself within five years – I wish I had installed 10 of them.

Land forming has been another important part of our business and we have slowly converted both farms from wriggly bays to bigger bays with drive over roads. This allows for easier, more efficient farming, whether we are fertilizing, watering, spraying or harvesting. It saves time, fuel, money on fertilizers and sprays, and it makes for easier working conditions, which benefits Glen’s mental health and his ability to sustain his work environment.

Glen has always been a gadgets man. If there’s new technology out there that can make work easier and more efficient, then we own it. I’m not even going to pretend that I understand how all his tractors are set up, but I do know he has computer screens in every tractor and uses precision farming and prescription field maps. It means he can accurately fertilize paddocks to their individual requirements, resulting in savings on fertilizer because one block might need less than the next. This gives us a better yield and also takes care of the environment as we are not spraying or fertilising unnecessarily. His next venture is to own his own drone so he can take his own field images and be more self-sufficient and able to make decisions more quickly.

As well as technology, we have hosted wheat trials for the last 10 years. This has given us a deeper understanding of what they need, and the researchers an understanding of what we as farmers need to do achieve it for them.

We also host delegates from Japan, Vietnam, Italy and America, as well as local tourists and school excursions, to showcase our technology and farm machinery. Overseas visitors are always impressed to see our ‘clean farming’ – a wonderful reputation that Australian farmers have around the world.

After 30 years of marriage, farming is our family passion and our family unit has been a major factor in our success. We always communicate what is happening and we have clear roles in terms of how we run the business. From a young age it has been important for us to sit around the kitchen table and discuss everything, from personal to business, because that’s how we support each other to thrive.

Going back to that decision to sink the bore in 2006, it came from a kitchen table discussion – we sat the kids down (I think the oldest was 15 at the time) and in the midst of the millennial drought said to the kids, ‘We are either going to have to sell out and move, or tighten our belt, invest heavily and make this business work’. The decision was unanimous – none of the kids wanted to leave the farm and we made a choice as a family to pool all our resources, including all the kids’ savings, and for them all to work on the farm knowing we couldn’t afford to pay them until some money came).

Looking back, that was a turning point and it has set us up to succeed not only in business but with every part of our personal lives.

While times were tough we all agreed to save money, so there was no spending on luxuries. The kids learnt to appreciate hand-me-downs; there was no going to the movies, no take away, no random shopping trips, and no buying lunches from the canteen. I learnt to make meals out of 1 kg of mince. We had no family holidays for years, and I went back to fulltime work while continuing to maintain my role in the farm office keeping all the books up-to-date. The kids worked after school and then on the farm whenever they were needed. Even our youngest, I think she was 10 at the time and had saved about $2000 from birthday and pocket money, put her life savings into the business to help with cash flow.

Glen and I had debts everywhere we turned, and thinking back now, even I am not quite sure how we did it, but we were determined to make it work.

It was at this point that Glen and I changed our ideas about the kids coming onto the farm after they finished school. We had always looked forward to the day our kids could work the farm but I decided they were all going to complete Year 12. I told them they had to bring me home a piece of paper – I didn’t care if it said electrician, doctor, builder, teacher, all I knew was that in drought proofing our farm we had to prepare our kids for future droughts … and there would be future droughts.

They had to be able to earn an income outside of the farm if this ever happened again. Because part of our resolve to make our farming business work, was the fact that Glen and I had no other professional experience to fall back on. We both left school at 15 and our earning potential was limited, unless we owned our own successful business. Literally this is all we knew and we had to make it work.

Fast forward to the day our oldest son graduated from university with a Commerce/Financial Planning Degree, when I asked him what he was going to do now. He said, ‘I’m going to stick this piece of paper that you wanted me get on your forehead and go on the tractor!’ I was happy with that because I felt happy knowing he had security for the future, just in case the farm did not do well.

We now have a 25-year-old Accountant working with us in the business, a 23-year-old daughter who is our in-house lawyer, a 19-year-old in his final year of fitting and machining, who fixes everything we need in the workshop, and a 17-year-old daughter in Year 12, with a view to studying Science & Agronomy.

In terms of succession planning, I feel like so far we have got it right. Our children have a passion to be part of the business and they are all following careers that complement the farm. And the succession planning conversation continues with our children as we share ideas about how we might pass down the farms to the kids in 10-15 years’ time when we retire. We are planning now so we all know where we stand and the kids can plan their own lives without the pressure of being reactive.

Education has always been important to me and while we have made it a priority to educate our children, Glen and I used the time during the millennium drought to educate ourselves. We successfully gained full scholarships through Ruralbiz Training. Glen completing an Advanced Diploma of Agriculture and I gained an Advanced Diploma of Farm Business Management and a Diploma of Agriculture. Due to our business and work experience most of this study was achieved through RPL, and having our own piece of paper has given us both more confidence in running the farm.

Glen’s subsequent success being elected to the SunRice Board in 2011 was in part due to his ‘piece of paper’. And more recently due to his almost eight years’ experience as a Director on SunRice he has been elected as a Councillor to the Griffith City Council.

Going forward the future looks bright. We are in the market for more land so our boys can be full-time farmers. We are slowly paying back all our debts and have enjoyed a couple of wonderful family holidays. We have completely renovated our home, even putting in a pool.

I believe it has been through good decisions, calculated risks, hard work, sacrifice, courage, communication and succession planning, that we have made it this far, not only as a family but as a thriving business. Winning the Farmer of the Year has been a huge acknowledgement of this.

I always longed for my own career, but I now realise that I have been creating this all along. As the wife and mother of the family I feel proud that although I had no professional experience or expertise in a particular field, I have had a huge influence in my children’s lives and believe I have been a great support and brought a lot of positive input to the business. Glen constantly reminds me, ‘He couldn’t have done any of it without me’.

Just as that day when I was confronted with the possibility of becoming a widow at age 47 and being left to look after a family and a business alone, I had to make a choice and I chose courage – the alternative was not an option.

I could not be prouder to have been a wife and partner to Glen for the last 30 years and a mother to my four amazing children.

Posted in agriculture, business, Families, inspirational, networking, rural women, stories, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The power of one voice to change many

aliciaBy Alicia Smith and SafeWork NSW
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Farming accounts for one in every five deaths in Australian workplaces, yet the industry makes up just 2.6 percent of Australia’s workforce. In 10 years there hasn’t been much improvement in the fatality rate and it goes without saying that if you’re male you’re more likely to get killed or injured.

When Alicia Smith’s younger brother Lachie died on their family farm, devastation was an understatement. It was a tragedy that deeply impacted not only her family, but an entire community of people her brother had touched in his 26 short years. Lachie was performing an everyday task that day, riding the quad bike to muster cattle with his dad. The quad hummed along on a piece of flat landscape among dry, short brown grass, on a familiar path through old gums in the summer heat. Lachie was on his own when the quad tipped onto its side, pinning him underneath. He never arrived to help his dad, but his dad eventually found him. You can only imagine the gut wrenching pain and sadness that followed. It was an unnatural turn of events and it shattered his family’s world.

Alicia was kilometres away when she got the news. Wearing a suit, surrounded by steel and glass in Sydney’s CBD, she heard the words and was confronted with the tragedy, but it seemed unbelievable. Having to grieve a sibling, now another farm accident statistic permanently changed her.

After Lachie’s death, Alicia felt a pull to take her experience and passion for helping others and make it a career. She herself is no stranger to farming accidents – having broken her arm falling off the back of the work ute when she was young she is equipped with an acute consciousness of what can go wrong.

Becoming a rural work health and safety (WHS) inspector for SafeWork NSW was one way Alicia could find purpose in tragedy. Once she completed her health degree she put herself to the task of helping injured workers return to work. Her goal as a WHS inspector was, and is, to help farming families across NSW understand the risks and hazards they live and work with, ever hopeful that she can help prevent further misery.

Alicia shares her own story as part of this endeavour, to educate others about the risks on farms so that they may, like her, participate in a cultural shift toward establishing farm safety front of mind. She also shares her story because, she says when it comes to WHS, women are an untapped resource for change.

Until 1994, gender discrimination was blatant, women were not legally insurable on the land – they were deemed ‘silent partners’, restricted from voting in farming organisations and, until the early 1970s, excluded from enrolment in agricultural courses. Gender inequality in farming has not only limited women’s visibility, their financial and succession prospects, it has limited their ability to frame policy and practice and to make the sort of authoritative contributions that establish and maintain safety cultures.

The fact that men are more likely to get hurt and killed is a legacy of historical and contemporary gendered divisions of labour. Such divisions have meant men and women inhabit separate spheres of labour and hierarchical legitimacy, and are thus segregated from conversations and practices of safety.

Alicia said moving into the 21st century, the role of women in agriculture is shifting and women are taking their rightful places as equals in the agriculture industry.

‘Women were once perceived as wives or farmhands, never owners, managers or farmers in their own right. We’ve had a long history of gender inequality in agriculture; even my grandfather had a succession plan centred around his male sons. Inequality has repercussions, not just for the loss of economic potential and workforce participation but the shape and reality of health outcomes on farms. Women should no longer accept the back seat; they should be driving practical safety messaging such as safe work procedures around guarding machinery, helmets on quads and motorbikes, seatbelts in work utes and side-by-side vehicles, and ensuring workers are properly trained. We need to ensure women are a part of the conversations and decision-making that embeds safety into routine and farming culture,’ Alicia said.

The risks facing farmers are as significant as they are preventable. Some of the most dangerous hazards include quad bikes, tractors, unguarded machinery and power take off drives. Younger workers in the 20-29 year age group are particularly susceptible to injury and 45-54 year olds need more time off work when they do get hurt.

John Ringland, SafeWork NSW Director of Northern Operations said preventing tragedies lies at the heart of WHS.

‘Establishing better, safer, ways to work and live on farms and making that part of the ordinary is what will save lives and prevent injuries. Despite more women pursuing leadership roles in farming businesses and gaining legitimacy in legal and institutional spheres, to significantly improve work health and safety in the agricultural sector, we must also empower women in agriculture to take a proactive role in safety,’ John said.

Women have the power to influence and drive home key WHS messages as well as establish practical solutions for farm safety and they can do this from whatever functional position they occupy in farm life. Since the 1980s, the rural women’s movement has challenged the perception of farmers being male, by telling rural women’s stories and changing the narrative about who does what in farming. In reality, female farmers make enormous contributions even from positions of marginality: they produce 49 per cent of farm income but only hold 2.3 per cent of CEO positions, compared to 17 per cent in other industries.

While more women making decisions is a good thing in such a gender-imbalanced industry, it is important for women to realise that even if they don’t run the physical side of a farming business, as a partner or officer they are still liable for their workers. As mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters their family’s lives depend on them. Women’s role as leaders for change is crucial in this respect.

‘SafeWork NSW recognises the powerful voice of women in agriculture and their potential to induce cultural change. In response to the high number of fatalities and injuries in farming, SafeWork NSW published the Agriculture Work, Health & Safety Sector Plan. As part of this plan, SafeWork NSW is developing an initiative to enhance women’s knowledge and understanding of WHS.

Women in Agriculture will focus on and assist women working on farms to meet their work health and safety and return to work obligations,’ John said.

As Alicia’s involvement in a new SafeWork NSW initiative testifies, the power of women’s voices to reduce the incidences of farm-related injury and death can be amplified by gender equality which is improving both the visibility of women in agriculture and their capacity to embed safety cultures into the agricultural landscape. Alicia is motivated to change the stories behind the statistics and use her voice and experiences to influence the industry’s view on safety. Despite having faced the worst juncture of gender, industry and hazard, losing her brother in this unholy collide, Alicia is constantly saddened by the past but undaunted at the prospect of building women’s capacity for a safety revolution in agriculture.

‘I wouldn’t change a thing from my childhood – a farm is one of the most exciting and eye opening places for a child to be brought up. My goal is to help provide leadership to facilitate change in the community and the organisation I work for is the best vehicle from which to do that.

‘SafeWork NSW wants to provide women in the NSW agriculture sector with the confidence and capability to have their voice heard, to start a safety conversation from the kitchen table and take it out to the paddocks. Women have a strong role, and a powerful one at that, to ensure the success and future viability of farming production. I see women being safety game changers in the face of disregard. Attitudes like ‘that’ll never happen to me’ and ‘she’ll be right’ have no place on a farm. She’ll only be right once all workers and family members arrive home safely each night,’ Alicia said.

SafeWork NSW currently offers free advice and free farm visits to agricultural businesses with less than 50 workers, as well as rebates relating to improvements in quad bike safety (up to $2000), free quad bike training and $500 small business rebate for safety improvements relating to manual tasks, hazardous chemicals, communication and working form heights, just to name a few. For more information and to determine eligibility for rebates call 13 10 50 or visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au

Posted in agriculture, Communities, Families, farming, Gender equality, primary industries, rural women | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How my life experience turned into a profession

leeBy Lee Blume, Bucket List Coach, Orange
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

“Do It now because sometimes ‘Later’ becomes ‘Never’

I hear, ‘this is the last boarding call for flight Sydney to Ulaanbaatar Mongolia’. Wow! At 49 I am boarding this flight to a place I have only seen on television, and I am doing it by myself. How am I feeling? Scared, excited, and completely over the moon to be doing something I didn’t think I would ever do!

This is just one of the many life experiences that have led me down the path to becoming a Bucket List Coach.

A Bucket List is more than just about travel, it is about creating a lifetime of experiences for yourself, your family and your friends – experiences that do and will excite you to get out bed each and every day.

Growing up as an Army ‘brat’ and moving towns and states often, as a child you either had to adapt or be very bored and lonely. So, I made my own fun – exploring camps, the surrounding bush or paddocks, and checking with the local kids for the best swimming spots. All of these experiences sparked a passion in me to look for new experiences where ever I go, up to this very day.

After doing what my husband Mark and I call our ‘20-year business apprenticeship’ in our first two business, we made the decision to sell both businesses and join a world-wide business coaching franchise where I have been the Marketing & Administration Manager for the last 12 years. As we grew this business together, my role sometimes crossed into personal coaching with the female partners in some of our clients businesses and this is an area I really enjoyed. There were lots of laughs and a few tears along the way with these clients, and we would often talk about their personal goals for the short and long-term.

Often I would come across clients whose goals were always in the future: ‘When the kids are grown up’, ‘when I retire’ or ‘when I have more money’. Being part of a coaching business has taught me the value and benefits of having not just the dreams wish list, but the power of a timeline of personal goals for the future.

In 2018 I attended a conference where one of the speakers was Trav Bell – ‘The Bucket List guy’. I was listening to Trav talk about ‘work to live or live to work’ and how he has created a business model for Bucket List coaches. This resonated with me immediately and now, I am one of the first Bucket List coaches in Australia.

Using my knowledge of how to help others document and action a detailed Bucket List Life Plan, I have been able to help people to create a future lifetime of experiences. I also work with others towards accelerating their existing Bucket List journey rather than waiting for ‘someday’ or ‘the perfect time’ and to enjoy as many travels and significant experiences as possible.

A recent and wonderful example is Frances. As we progressed through our coaching, it came out that Frances loved to sing, but had become so caught up in the day-to-day that this passion was put on hold.

Her never ending ‘To Do List’ of running the house, kids and work had resulted in her singing being all but forgotten. So I asked her, ‘Will your family remember the hours of cleaning and running them around, or will they remember going to see/hear you sing?’ I am happy to report that Frances has been for her first audition for a part in musical and has rekindled her passion.

When working with groups, amazing new ideas surface and you go, ‘Oh! I haven’t thought of that one’. So, yes, you should be constantly adding to your Bucket List – it’s perpetual.

If you ever find yourself getting lost in the realities of life, why not pause for a moment, pick up a pen and start uncovering and rediscovering your dreams and turn your passion into something that could help and excite you, and maybe others.

Trav Bell said at the conference, ‘Some people die at 40 and are buried at 80’. So what are you waiting for? Create that Bucket List and start experiencing all of those things you have dreamed of. And do it now, because sometimes ‘later’ becomes ‘never’.

Posted in business, Communities, Families, inspirational, rural women, stories, Women in Focus | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leading women in Ag: Pip Job

Pip Job_headshot landscapeBy Pip Job, Geurie
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Tell me about your childhood, family, home and work?

I was born in Emerald Qld – the first born to my parents who were gem miners at Sapphire. As a kid, we moved around a bit before landing in Dubbo in the 80s. I went to boarding school in Orange where I developed a passion for beef cattle industry – an interest that became a large part of my young adult life.

Later, as a beef cattle producer and property owner at Cumnock in the Central West, I became involved in Landcare. During my 10 years with the Little River Landcare Group as a member, staff member and then CEO, I learnt a huge amount about natural resource management, sustainable agriculture and community engagement. I loved my time working with Landcare and feel a deep sense of commitment to what Landcare achieves and the benefits it brings to communities, and an admiration for the amazing people involved in this network.

I have two boys, Duncan (16) and Jack (14), and live with my partner James (who also has two teenage boys) on a property near Geurie – a busy rural village near Dubbo. We have a busy life running around the country side supporting the boys on the sporting field, at school events and with their busy social lives.

What did you want to be when you left school? Has this changed?

I wanted to study animal genetics. My passion was for beef cattle and I was heavily involved in the sector and on various committees. After deciding to travel and work for a year, plans changed and I ended up going to University as a mature age student studying a Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture. Studying by distance, with two toddlers, a part-time job and a farm business to manage, was extremely challenging.

As Manager for DPI’s Business Resilience program what’s one of the best thing about your job?

I love the difference we make in our communities and for primary industries. We look after the people in agriculture and our team is passionate about what they do and the people they support. I have three inspiring teams: the Rural Women’s Network, Young Farmer Business Program and the Rural Resilience Program. Each has a target audience and the things they achieve as a small team is extraordinary. Having great teams of people is one of the best things about my job.

Why did this type of work interest you? How did it get started?

I believe that my life experiences, the jobs I have had and the fields of interest I have nurtured have all accumulated to this point where I have a strong interest in resilience, community engagement and how we encourage the sustained adoption of best practice.

However, I think the catalyst was when I won the NSW-ACT and National Rural Women’s Award in 2014 to develop a project focused on the social barriers that inhibit a farm family business from reaching its full potential. My observations while working in Landcare, my personal experiences, and my interest in exploring these through the award project, have given me an extraordinary perspective to the complexities and diversity of issues farming families experience.

What steps did you take that were vital in getting to where you are now?

I have always accepted opportunities as they have been presented. Every challenge is a healthy one in my eyes. You learn from every experience and I think my attitude has been crucial to where I am now. Being willing to step outside my comfort zone has been important. I have experienced plenty of challenging moments that have tested my resolve, but I have survived them all and grown along the way.

Who has inspired and supported you along the way?

I’ve had an incredible cheer squad over the years. In my teens I had some great role models. Then, moving into my adult years I had so many men who encouraged me to step forward for opportunities and supported me along the way; even during some personal periods that were very hard. More recently I have had many more women there beside me, helping me to recognise my potential and to reach for the stars.

The most important person in my life that has supported me in a way I feel I could never repay is my partner James. We met just prior to my life becoming crazy, in 2014 after winning the Rural Women’s Award, and he has been a rock. Always there to support me in every way, he has been so incredibly encouraging. His support has allowed me to take on some challenging roles such as the State Drought Coordinator in 2018.

Two women who have really inspired me since joining DPI are Sonia Muir and Kate Lorimer-Ward. Both are extraordinary individuals – highly capable and authentic leaders who do what they do because they believe in the work they do, the people they support and the teams they lead. I feel privileged to have worked with them and to step into the next phase of my career with them by my side.

What have your experiences taught you?

There is a positive in absolutely everything, even when you think there simply couldn’t be. The gift of experiencing a challenge and realising that you were stronger than you thought, or finding that you have a skill when you didn’t quite realise you did, is an awesome gift.

In my 40 years I have experienced a range of things – some I’d happily do again, others I am happy to avoid. All however have given me perspective, built skills, expanded my network, and importantly, helped to contribute to my thirst for knowledge and experiences.

What does being a rural woman mean to you?

It’s about more than me. It’s about how I support those around me, the community I live in, the industry I serve, and the people I care about. It’s about me leveraging my learnings and experiences for the good of others. Being rural is a special thing and how we all connect to make stronger, healthier places where we live and work is essential. Being a rural woman is a privilege in my eyes; especially when you meet so many other extraordinary rural women who are just as passionate about what they do.

Since publishing this story, Pip Job has now been appointed Director of Engagement within Engagement & Industry Assistance at the NSW DPI.

Posted in agriculture, Cattle, Communities, Families, farming, Landcare, rural women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Country Care Link – Celebrating 25 Years driving regional NSW people to medical services

Country Care Link Sr Jan O'Grady-1By Country Care Link
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

‘It’s truly remarkable that we’ve been able to provide such a wonderful, much-needed service for the past 25 years for so many country people who face the uncertainty of sickness and the ever-increasing costs of travelling to Sydney for health care.’ Sr Jan O’Grady, Country Care Link Coordinator.

Open Support’s Country Care Link transport service celebrates its 25 Year Anniversary this year – an extraordinary achievement for a service which has relied totally on the goodwill of volunteer drivers throughout its history.

The service, which provides no-cost transport for country people who need to come to Sydney for medical appointments and treatment, officially began on 3 August 1994 (when Open Support was known as Sisters of Charity Outreach). It evolved out of an earlier initiative called Country Care, which began at the invitation of then-NSW Premier John Fahey in 1992, with hay deliveries to drought-stricken farmers by a team of intrepid Sisters!

The much-admired Sr Enid Doherty ran the early Country Care service, which included the TelePal call-in and chat service for isolated country people, before taking the reins of Country Care Link from 1994 through until 2005. She was followed by Sr Colleen Noonan, and then Sr Adele Cottrell-Dormer, before current coordinator, Sr Jan O’Grady, was appointed in 2010.

While early records don’t show exactly how many regional people Country Care Link has helped during its 25 years, the service has conducted over 9000 trips in the past five years; the number of indigenous clients has tripled; the number of over-65’s has nearly doubled; and the number of children has risen by a quarter.

Until very recently, volunteer office staff took bookings using a paperwork process and a computer database, coupled with multiple phone calls back and forth between drivers and clients, to ensure clients were picked up on time, at the right location, and were safely delivered to and from their destination.

However, last year saw Country Care Link’s biggest behind-the-scenes enhancement, when a booking system using Salesforce software (donated by supporter Salesforce) was installed.

‘Salesforce has been the biggest change to the way we do things, and thanks to Salesforce and Atlas Consulting (who assisted with the implementation), much of what we do is now fully automated,’ says Sr Jan. Now, when a booking is taken, auto generated emails and text messages connect, remind and inform drivers and clients right up until the minute a client gets into their vehicle.

Sr Jan is enormously proud that, 25 years on, Country Care Link continues to provide ‘country folk’, as she fondly refers to them, with access to health care.

‘We’re still going strong because there’s a real need out there by country folk, who must come to the city for medical services which are simply not available where they live. Our no-cost service reduces their stress financially and emotionally, by ensuring they can get to their treatment.

‘We’re also still here because we have such kind people who are happy to be volunteers and give back to the community.’

Sr Jan emphasises that the service is indebted to its volunteer drivers and support staff, as well as many supporters over the years, including the Macquarie Radio Network and Alan Jones, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA), the Rural Women’s Network and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Her many trips to rural areas to meet with hospital social workers, to share how Country Care Link can support more families, has brought home to Sr Jan the challenge regional families face in getting to Sydney for vital health care services.

‘If we can help people who are having to do all that travelling by at least being here for them when they eventually get to Sydney – with a smiling, happy friendly face to greet them and take them safely to their hospital or accommodation for the night – then we’ve taken some of that stress away for them.’

A personal experience with Country Care Link
60-Plus Trips in 13 Years: Leonie’s ‘blessed and grateful’

‘I can’t speak highly enough of Country Care Link and its wonderful volunteer drivers. I would never have been able to get to all my many medical appointments in Sydney over the years without them, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me,’ says 79-year-old Leonie Calvi of Coffs Harbour.

Lung transplant recipient Leonie, who lives alone and lost both her sons recently, has been a regular client for over half of Country Care Link’s 25 Years. She’s used the service more than 60 times since one of our friendly volunteer drivers first collected her from Sydney airport to bring her to St Vincent’s Hospital 13 years ago.

‘In the early days, after my transplant, I had to come to Sydney every two or three weeks. These days, despite my recent kidney failure, thankfully it’s not quite so often. But I think I’ve had nearly every volunteer driver they’ve ever had working for Country Care Link at one time or the other.

‘They’re always there with a friendly smile, waiting for me when my plane comes in to take me where I need to go. I’ve even had drivers’ kindly waiting with a wheelchair for me, even though I don’t need one.’

Like many regional NSW residents, pensioner Leonie has only been able to afford to fly in and out of Sydney due to NSW Health’s Isolated Patients Travel & Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) and Country Care Link.

‘Country Care Link has saved me so much money that I’ve never had.’

Ironically, Leonie still fondly recalls the one time, many years ago, when the service didn’t have a volunteer driver available to collect her.

‘But, one of the Sisters (of the then-named Sisters of Charity Outreach) jumped in a car and came and picked me up. I got such a surprise and I thought: Wow, my goodness me! But then, all their drivers have looked after me so well. I feel so blessed and I’m so grateful.’

Country Care Link
Country Care Link provides transport to regional NSW families, couples and individuals who are attending medical appointments and hospital stays. Transport is provided by trained volunteer drivers on arrival and/or departure between the airport, railway or bus station, and their medical appointment, hospital or accommodation. When booking transport, 48-hours’ notice is preferred. To book, call 1800 806 160 or 02 8382 6434, Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 3.00 pm or email: transport@opensupport.org.au. Visit http://opensupport.org.au for more information.

Isolated Patients Travel & Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS)
A NSW Government scheme providing financial assistance towards travel and accommodation costs when a patient needs to travel long distances for treatment that is not available locally.

1800 362 253

Posted in Communities, Community Hero, Families, free resources, Health, inspirational, rural women, stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fat bob and the blonde

Photo 9-10-17, 6 33 55 pm

Hello, I’m Miss Heather, or Miss H for short. So, who are Fat Bob and the Blonde? Well, Fat Bob is the Harley Davidson model I ride and I’m the peroxide enhanced blonde. To make things more interesting, I tow a camper trailer, Mr T.

I was blessed growing up on a farm 30 km out of Coonabarabran, a small town in the Central West. With almost 3000 acres of playground to run free in, I was encouraged to explore, challenge myself, take risks, pick myself up, dust myself off, and use my imagination. I believe those early farm days made me the adventurous and resilient spirit I am today.

I developed a passion for motorcycles early. I don’t know where it came from. We didn’t have motorcycles on the farm. I didn’t know anyone who rode a motorcycle. Yet an intriguing love affair started in early childhood.

At age nine, my parents sold the family farm and we moved to Wagga Wagga.  I was devastated. Becoming a townie took adjusting; I yearned for the big, wide-open space to run free in.

It wasn’t until I left school and moved to Sydney aged 17 and got my motorcycle licence that I bought my first motorbike, a Yamaha DT 175. My parents wanted to kill me. ‘Good girls don’t ride motorcycles’ was my mother’s response! Dad threatened to cut it up with a chain saw if I ever brought it home.

Over the next four years I changed my bikes as often as I changed my jobs and regional towns I lived in. I didn’t own a car – I was a biker. Sunshine, rain, or hail, I rode.

In 1988 I sold my Honda CB 900 to travel overseas. I left Australia with a backpack, tent, and sleeping bag, not returning until 1998 with three children, four bags, and about $400! I don’t remember reading that chapter in Lonely Planet.

I spent the next 17 years as a single mum back in Wagga Wagga. My focus shifted to raising my children and building a career in community/cultural development.

In late 2010 I got back into motorcycling. Then in 2014 I became an empty nester! My three fabulous kids went off chasing their dreams – they had survived my parenting and I had survived motherhood!

I figured it was the perfect time for me to reconnect to my gypsy soul and pick up where I left off when I hit the pause button for marriage and family. I was craving freedom and adventure.

In May 2014, with Fat Bob and Mr T ‘locked and loaded’, I hit the road, combining my three passions – motorcycling, travel, and people.

I ran a blog which gave me the opportunity to flirt with writing – a subject that’s teased me for some time now.

For me, very early into the road trip it became all about the ride. I loved riding through all the amazing landscapes; the more remote and isolated the better. The sense of freedom was addictive. Immerging myself in nature, especially that red dirt. It got into my skin, heart and soul.

I met the most wonderful people along the way; their conversations, laughter, friendship, generosity and stories generosity were priceless.

More recently I have been recovering from an accident – a limb threatening injury! In late 2016 I was on a borrowed motorcycle when the headlight failed as I crossed a bridge at night in Far North Queensland. It has been a long recovery – physically, mentally and emotionally. And, I have discovered things will never be quite the same again – it is a permanent injury!

I used my recovery time to self-publish a book: Fat Bob & the Blonde – Girl Torque. It is an entertaining memoir about my travels, however, important messages of resilience, adversity, thinking big and creating a life you want are also woven into Girl Torque.

I am finally back riding my beloved Fat Bob and out on the road again with Mr T in tow and I am combining my three passions again.

However, things are a little different this time around, as I reinvent myself and transition Fat Bob and the Blonde from a travel blog into my work. I now use my motorcycling and travel experiences as a metaphor to living life, empowering people, in particular women, to live their life at full throttle, through my author talks, motivational speaking and workshops. My greatest wish is for people to gain inspiration, courage and motivation and to go out and do what makes them happy – to create their journey and follow their own unique road map!

Posted in Communities, inspirational, resilience, Rural Australia, rural women, stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CWA of NSW welcomes new president


stephanieBy Stephanie Stanhope, Bega
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

The role of President of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW is not a role you do alone. It is done with the input and support of the members of this association, and especially with the support of my family.

I have been a member of the CWA of NSW for 13 years. I encourage all women to become involved with the CWA – it has given me a network of support, camaraderie, and new horizons. To get involved, head to the CWA of NSW website to join online, and get your local branch details.

Living on a property out of town I know the daily challenges that can make life a little harder and I look forward to the opportunity my new role provides in speaking up for our members and representing their interests to policy-makers at all levels.

I am really focused on issues faced by women living in country NSW, like social isolation, financial strain, and access to health services.

I have four living children, three sons and a daughter, as well as a daughter who was stillborn but who is still an important part of my family. I also have two adorable, toddling grandsons. As the youngest of 10 siblings I am grateful for the ongoing support from my older brothers and sisters, who continue to encourage their baby sister with all of my pursuits; although unfortunately we have lost two of these siblings in the last 12 months. I know I would not have obtained or be able to sustain this role without their ongoing support.

I live in the beautiful Bega Valley in South East NSW. My ex-husband and I owned and operated a three hundred cow dairy supplying the Bega Cheese factory. The business survived droughts, floods and the deregulation of the dairy industry. After the sale of the business in 2002, I now live on a small portion of what was our farm.

Some of my experience includes serving on the catchment management board, the dairy industry development board, as well as holding positions at group and state level of the CWA of NSW. I am an avid knitter, and cook for competitions.

Rural industries are the backbone of regional and remote NSW. They support the surrounding communities as well as comprising a major part of our export market. As drought conditions continue to worsen across NSW we need to find solutions to support and address the hardships primary producers are facing, and also those of rural businesses that are not primary producers.

At the moment, drought would be the major issue CWA NSW are dealing with. And with drought goes water. Prioritisation of water is critical for human needs, and regional water users in terms of both water supply and water quality should be afforded the same standards as metropolitan residents. There also needs to be a more transparent balance between social, economic and environmental factors in water management. With the ongoing pressures of drought and water, rural communities need help now more than ever, especially in terms mental well-being and health services. Access to health services clearly remains sub-par in rural remote regional NSW.

The most important thing that I have learned in my life so far is – you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.

More information
t: 02 8337 0200
e: info@cwaofnsw.org.au

Posted in agriculture, business, Communities, Families, farming, Health, rural women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Boost your Coping Capacity

couch 11 (2)

By Natalie Stockdale

Having lived on the land for many years, enduring unprecedented droughts in one of Australia’s harshest climatic areas, I can truly empathise with the strain and pain associated with the drought. The tips shared below can help to reduce stress and build resilience. I encourage you to select the ones that resonate with you and commit to incorporating them into your daily life.

1. Harness the power of the heart. Practise Quick Coherence, an evidence-based, HeartMath technique, for 2-3 minutes morning and night. Practise it also when anticipating or recovering from a stressful experience.

Step 1: Focus your attention on the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart, breathing a little slower than usual. Try inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds, but most importantly, find a rhythm that feels comfortable.

Step 2: Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation, love or care for someone, some time, some place or something in your life. Sustain that feeling and enjoy being in coherence, one of the best gifts you can give your mind and body.

2. Eat with care. Be mindful of everything you put in your mouth. Is it nutrient dense? Are you hungry, or eating due to emotions? When you eat take a moment to appreciate the origin of the food – the animal, the plants, the growers, the cook! Chew thoroughly – by chewing many times you will eat slower which can help your digestion.

3. Lift your energy. Make time to do the things that simply make you feel good gardening, walking, tennis, painting, knitting, reading or socialising. Do these activities as often as you can.

4. Sleep well. Ensure you get at least seven hours sleep a night. If you have trouble sleeping try: diffusing lavender essential oil in your bedroom and/or practising the Quick Coherence technique. Ensure your room is quiet and dark. Avoid stimulants such as computers, television, caffeine and alcohol. And ensure you exercise during the day so your body is fatigued.

5Slow exercise. Incorporate a slow form of exercise such as yoga or Qi Gong into your day. It will help you stay present in the moment and foster a sense of calmness. As little as 10 minutes each morning can help set a good tone for the day.

6. Think thoughtfully. Thoughts are energy so be aware of your thoughts and focus only on what you want, not what you don’t want. You want rain, not drought. Focus on rain and the abundance that rain brings. Channel your thoughts and energy towards your desired goals.

7. Social support. Connect with friends, family, community groups, anyone who makes you feel good. Practise discernment and connect with people who support your wellbeing, rather than those who increase your stress.

8. ​Engage your sense of humour. Greek philosopher Epictetus said, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters’. By choosing laughter you will improve your immune system, longevity and relationships! When possible, switch on your fun radar and enjoy the lighter side of unexpected events.

9. Be kind. Acts of kindness improve the wellbeing of the giver, the receiver AND the observer? Serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone is released in all three scenarios. Simple acts of kindness – such as a compliment, patting your dog, helping a neighbour – are contagious and tend to make all involved feel good.

​10. Remember that it will pass. Nothing is permanent. Just like each day and night, seasons, tides and lives, and hard times are all temporary. When you’re in the depths of despair, remember that it will pass. It will rain.

11. Attitude of gratitude. People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, less anxiety, sleep better, and they have better heart health. Start a gratitude journal and every night reflect on your day writing three things that happened for which you are grateful. You’ll soon accumulate a bank of reasons to be happy.  

12. Connect with spirit. Whether you call it God, the universe, Mother Earth, ask for help. Wayne Dyer said that if we knew who walked beside us every day, no one would be lonely.

13. Plan your low-stress life. Once you discover what you truly value and want in life – tomorrow, next year, in five years and all the way to the end, you can set goals, prioritise your actions and move forward towards your vision of a successful (low-stress) life.

14. Never give up. Admiral James Stockdale survived over seven years of imprisonment and torture during the Vietnam War, when many fellow servicemen in the same circumstances did not. We can learn from his ‘never give up’ approach which ultimately saved his life and became a legacy for others who are experiencing adversity. Maintain faith that you will get through your abyss AND, at the same time, undertake whatever actions are required to get you through.

For more stress management tips see: www.stockdalewellbeing.com

Posted in agriculture, anxiety, Communities, Families, Health, mental health, resilience, rural women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment