Female Farmers chosen for future focused ag leadership program

14 October 2022

CQUniversity Australia has announced the four successful Victorian farmers selected for the Female Farmers of the Future project which is being delivered in partnership with the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub' Birchip Cropping Group' Food and Fibre Gippsland' and Riverine Plains.

The successful farmers who will be involved in the project include Francine Gilfedder (Gippsland)' Sandra Pollington (Mallee)' Amanda Rofe (North East)' and Sally Rowe (Goulburn Valley).

The pilot focuses on women who are based in Victoria' have entered the agricultural industry from a non-farming background and are looking to create change' and is funded by the Australian Government's Drought Resilience Ideas Grant.

As part of the project' the successful applicants will be provided with a $5'000 cash contribution to purchase and install a commercially available agri-tech system on their farms and will also gain access to mentoring from industry professionals.

The project aims to connect female farmers with innovative practices while also helping to increase their industry skills' confidence and leadership experiences.

CQUniversity Research Fellow and leader of the Agricultural Education and Extension Cluster Dr Amy Cosby says we are seeing the demand for new skills and innovation grow to address drought resilience and improved on- and off-farm practices.

"This program will enable participants to increase their capacity' confidence and capability to take on leadership positions across the supply chain' and through extension to their local communities'" Dr Cosby said.

"This positions women as great change makers for bridging the gap between the rest of the world and Australia in the adoption of agricultural technology and digital agriculture."

Successful applicant' Francine Gilfedder was inspired to apply for the program having experienced years of drought during her time running a cattle property.

"Drought impacts every aspect of a farmer's life and sometimes the biggest challenge can be overcoming the overwhelming feeling of despair to keep the farm going even when there isn't enough water for the veggie garden.

"During our experience of drought' we had to look at our existing farm practices and rethink what we were doing and how to go about getting water to where it was needed most.

"Through this project I want to gain a thorough awareness of drought resilience and how technology can be deployed to reduce the impact of drought and improve water security.

"Drought is always going to be a situation farmers need to contend with so I would love to be able to show leadership in identifying more innovative and sustainable solutions and passing this knowledge onto other farmers and the younger generation who are coming up through the industry'" said Ms Gilfedder.

Garlic farmer Amanda Rofe had a background as a massage therapist before being introduced to the agriculture sector and purchasing her own farm.

In her foundation years on the farm' Ms Rofe experienced the impact of drought and through this experience wants to be able to explore drought resilience options and then use this knowledge to help others.

"In the first year of setting up my farm I relied solely on rainfall to provide water for livestock and my garlic crop and unfortunately due to this my garlic crop failed to produce a sellable product.

"Having no experience or exposure to agriculture before the age of 25 has meant that I am learning everything from the very basics so being able to interact with agri-tech innovation and being guided by industry leaders will be a really valuable experience for me'" she said.

The four farmers selected for this pilot will work alongside experienced agricultural researchers from CQUniversity and the partner organisations to implement and monitor an agri-tech system on their own property.

CQUniversity researchers will then develop a model based on the experiences of the participants and the impact of innovation on their knowledge and confidence on-farm.