Farmer and food blogger takes out national Rural Women’s Award

Source: RIRDC 14 September 2016

Sophie Hansen, a deer farmer, food blogger and author from Orange, NSW has been announced as the national winner of the 2016 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award. The award celebrates brilliant women and the positive impact they have on rural industries, businesses and communities.

The announcement was made by Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce in front of 300 industry leaders, parliamentarians and award alumnae at a gala dinner at Parliament House on Wednesday.

Sophie Hansen accepting her award from Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.

2016 Australian RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner Sophie Hansen accepting her award from Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.

Sophie Hansen, as the NSW State winner, received $10,000 to develop her project ‘My Open Kitchen’, a unique online learning course assisting food producers to embrace the power of social media to share their food stories and better connect with their consumers. As the national winner, she receives a further $10,000 to strengthen her leadership skills and share her experience with others around the country.

Sophie said celebrating Australian farmers and the provenance of quality local food is the inspiration for her project.

“My ever-constant goal is to support and celebrate Australian farmers by encouraging consumers to seek out their produce as directly as possible, then cook and share it!”

Western Australian finalist and seed producer, Kalyn Fletcher, was named national runner-up and will use her $10,000 bursary to pursue her passion to expand tropical agriculture in Australia’s north. Kalyn will undertake a study tour of the Cerrado Region of Brazil where she will learn from South America’s highly successful tropical agriculture industry and bring new ideas and practices home to the Kimberley’s Ord River region.

Sophie Hansen & Kalyn Fletcher

2016 Australian RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner Sophie Hansen accepting her award from Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.

Kalyn says the knowledge and insights she gains from her tour will be shared with producers in her region to promote and help grow the success of the industry.

“Tropical agriculture is an industry Australia should be excited about. We are achieving amazing things up here in the North, the opportunities are endless,” she said.

RIRDC Managing Director, John Harvey congratulates Sophie on winning the national Award and said her desire to support farmers to use social media to capture their stories is an example of rural leadership at its best.

“Sophie will be a brilliant ambassador for the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award. She has the talent to create real change through influencing the conversation around educating consumers on where their food comes from and to buy local. This is a really positive message that will benefit our farmers and the broader food industry. Sophie’s passion is contagious,” he said.

Mr Harvey also congratulates Kalyn on being the national runner-up of this prestigious Award.

“Kalyn’s aspiration to further the expansion of northern Australia is exciting. She has the passion, drive and determination to make a difference in her region and to the wider Australian tropical agriculture industry. Kalyn should be commended not just for what she has already done for rural Australia, but for her leadership potential in the future.”

Sophie, Kalyn and each of our deserving 2016 state finalists will join an esteemed alumnae of more than 200 women recognised through this Award. Each are from diverse backgrounds around the nation who contribute in many different ways. They’re community volunteers, farmers, business leaders and industry representatives,” he said.


State Finalists in the 2016 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

The Award’s Platinum Sponsor, Westpac Agribusiness also congratulated Sophie Hansen on taking out the national Award.

“Westpac Agribusiness congratulates Sophie for the innovative work she has done in developing My Open Kitchen. The Rural Women’s Award is highly recognised and regarded across rural, regional and remote Australia and held in high esteem by industry, government and community. The recognition the Award brings is important as it provides women with a strong platform to bring about innovative change and help in continuing to build resilient rural, regional and remote communities. Importantly, the award highlights the vital leadership role women play across all levels of business and industry,” said Susan Bower, Head of Agribusiness.

“We are excited to support Sophie as she continues to build and grow My Open Kitchen, and look forward to seeing all she achieves in the next twelve months, and into the future. We congratulate all the state finalists on their achievements and look forward to following their future success.

Westpac Agribusiness is proud to once again be the Platinum Partner of the Rural Women’s Award.  It is another way in which we can shine a light on the vital role women play and help to inspire and promote our future champions of change within Australian agriculture,” Ms Bower said.

2016 NSW-ACT Award winner and finalists

Applications for the 2017 Rural Women’s Award are open. If you or someone you know has a strong commitment or desire to making a real difference to rural Australia, then apply or nominate them now. It truly is a life changing opportunity. Applications close on Monday, 31 October 2016.


About the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award is an initiative of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation in partnership with the state and territory agencies responsible for agriculture, primary industries and resources. The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award is proudly supported by Westpac Agribusiness and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

This leading Award serves to acknowledge the vital role women play in rural businesses, industries and communities, recognising women that lead their communities, bring about change, drive innovation and build resilient rural communities.

The Award is open to all women involved in primary industries. State and Territory winners receive a $10,000 financial bursary to implement their Award idea. Each state and territory winner will participate in leadership development opportunities such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) course and will be supported to develop an individual integrated leadership plan, providing a platform for recipients to continue to deliver a long term contribution and improvement to regional and rural Australia.

A national winner and runner-up is selected from the state winners with a further $10,000 awarded to support their professional development and contribution to primary industries.

For more information and details on how to apply contact Rural Women’s Network on 02 6391 3620 or email:

Stay tuned for information on a RWA National Webinar which will give interested women more information about the Award and why it is a life-changing experience. The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday 11 October at 1 pm (more information to come).

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
This entry was posted in bursary, RIRDC rural women's award, rural women, Women leaders and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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