As featured in the Number 60 Winter issue of The Country Web
Three years ago I had the privilege to be named 2011 Runner-Up of the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award. This opportunity reinforced the huge difference women can make in many agricultural industries and it gave me confidence to start my own business. I have also been privileged to be named one of the Westpac Group and Financial Review 100 Women of Influence in 2013 – an extremely humbling experience.
I am passionate about rural communities, agriculture and more specifically the Australian sheep and wool industry. Often referred to as a ‘sheep tragic’, I have a great belief in the potential of a united wool and sheepmeat industry. Unifying these production systems via measurement and reason will provide clear direction for sheep producers and the industry as a whole.
Instead of choosing meat or wool, we can combine the best mix of the two to deliver better risk management and profitable solutions to farming businesses and secure product supply. The technology and processes to make these production improvements exists and continues to grow within the public and private domains. I believe that the best way to communicate this to sheep producers and rural communities in general, is by building strategic relationships between public and commercial enterprises. This will create a sense of value for the information and increase the information distribution network.
I grew up on a grazing property on the Monaro in NSW. After studying agriculture at University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, my career has taken a number of paths, from working with NSW Department of Primary Industries to setting up my own consultancy business in Young NSW that services commercial and stud sheep producers and service providers.
In addition to my consultancy business I am one of MerinoLink Limited’s founding members and Chief Executive Officer. It is a recently formed not-for-profit organisation that aims to facilitate sheep growers and service provider links with information, knowledge and research. MerinoLink’s membership is from a wide range of sheep businesses with varying production systems — from the farm to industry service providers who have been brought together by a common enthusiasm for profitable Merino sheep and a desire to continue to build the sheep industry’s profitability as a whole. I have also been privileged to be involved with another wonderful development, the Peter Westblade Scholarship (PWS).
The PWS helps young enthusiastic people aspiring to a career in the sheep industry with in-kind and financial support to gain invaluable hands-on experience and network opportunities. The aim of the scholarship is to promote and deliver practical skills development, mentoring and networking with industry leaders and peers. The scholarship honours the late Peter Westblade, who passed away in 2008, a true visionary of the sheep industry, epitomising compassion and devotion to a cause.
The scholarship is in its third year and has attracted applicants from all over Australia. The calibre of applicants is encouraging and inspiring in its own right. I believe there is a strong future in the sheep industry and by encouraging and showing young people what opportunities exist, the PWS has been designed to add value to the many secondary and tertiary education funds that already exist.
Key lessons for me have come from passionate mentors, male and female, who care about passing on what they have learnt, sharing their time, skills and insight with young people wanting to have a go. I may never repay all the people who have helped me directly, however I endeavour to assist as many people who show the initiative to learn and grow. Our future is in their hands, and I am more than happy to hold a few.