Katie-visiting-VFMA

I can’t tell you how many times this week I’ve found myself saying “RIRDC – that’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, look them up online, they offer this amazing Award for rural women, you should enter,” or words to that effect!

I’m finding in my travels, and as I talk to lots of women about the Award, that many of them haven’t heard of it yet. Well! There’s a mission for me, to spread the word. It’s such a great opportunity to get more skills and take a step up towards leadership, as well as the very welcome financial support of the bursary to get your project done.

Of course there’s also other leadership opportunities, other courses, even other awards, for both women and men in agriculture and rural communities, and they’re all great. But first, you have to see yourself as the potential in yourself.

Lots of women seem to feel like it doesn’t apply to them – they don’t see themselves as leaders, or successful enough, or …. something … to even enter an award or start a leadership course, and I’m meeting them all the time. This week I met Sam, who regularly travels from her new home on the other side of Melbourne all the way back to Ballarat to work on the volunteer committee that organises the Ballarat Rural Living Expo (as well as other major events during the year). How’s that for dedication? I reckon she deserves an award!

Which brings me back to the question of who inspires you? One of the influential women for me, who helped set me on the path to winning this award, was Cathy McGowan, now independent MP for Indi, when she taught a Women in Organics course I was lucky enough to do a few years ago. And there are lots of other women who have been key in helping me believe in myself and give it a go. I’ve been thinking a lot about who inspires me, and some of them are well known, but many of them you will never have heard of, because they’re just quietly going about being leaders in their own field, or town, or family. All important, all inspirational. I started a list, but it got very long, very quickly, so I’m just going to tell you about three of them.

Clare¬†– one of our Grow Great Fruit members who joined after their property was burned out by bushfire a few years ago. They saved their house but lost some of their precious stock and all but a few remnants of the garden, and had to start again from scratch. Since the trauma of the fire, they’ve dealt with illness and the rehabilitation of their property with endless good humour and persistence, and have been amongst our most active members, soaking up every scrap of information we can provide them about how to grow their own fruit and then asking for more. Jane and her husband are the sort of resilient folk that epitomise rural Australians.

Vandana Shiva – an Indian activist who actively campaigns against GMO technology and for a return to a more women-centred traditional farming model in India as a way of increasing prosperity for rural women and their families, while protecting the environment and food sovereignty. She’s awesome.

Cathy – from Bliss Blend organic teas, who has the stall next to us at Bendigo Community Farmers Market. Cathy started her organic tea business from scratch, and has come up with her own recipes, sourced all the organic ingredients (almost all Australian), come up with thoughtful and beautiful packaging, learned how to do her own marketing, and built a thriving small business from nothing. She’s just committed to the big step of attending an expensive interstate trade show, and I’ve got my fingers crossed she lands her first big contract, which will be just what she needs to expand her business to the next step. I can just see her as Australia’s organic tea queen (and can highly recommend her licorice tea – addictive!).

So, you’re surrounded by amazing women – and if you’re a rural woman, are no doubt one yourself! Who are you feeling inspired by?

Meanwhile back at Project Central, this week I’ve been

* interviewed by Southern Farmer newspaper;
* met with the lovely folk at the Victorian Farmers Markets Association to tell them about my project (that’s where I took the photo, just to show I occasionally get close to Giorgio Armani, even if I would never in a million years shop there!);
* writing the survey I’m going to send to all the stallholders at the pilot markets – Coburg and Castlemaine Farmers Market – and sending it to various mentors for feedback;
* organising a pruning crew – hooray!! – this is going to give me the time I need to work on the project;
* hosting a “Cooking for Numbers” group from Castlemaine Community House at the farm, telling them how small family farms like us market and sell our produce;
* doing fruit tree talkback on Local ABC radio;
* giving a fruit tree workshop to a packed marquee at the Ballarat Rural Living Expo;
* interviewing our new farm intern with Hugh;
* Hugh and I have been finalising negotiations to lease some land on the farm to some enterprising young women farmers who want to start a market garden; and
* having our annual NASAA farm inspection.

Wow. That was a big week, but honestly, aren’t they all? And after all, you’re a long time dead….