Women's role in ag takes a front seat

Women's role in ag takes a front seat


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Panellists at the Women in Agriculture lunch included Phillippa Grogan, Phillippa's Bakery, fashion designer Liz Davenport, rural reporter Sue Neales, free pig farmer Tammi Jonas and Dairy Australia's Amy Fay.

Panellists at the Women in Agriculture lunch included Phillippa Grogan, Phillippa's Bakery, fashion designer Liz Davenport, rural reporter Sue Neales, free pig farmer Tammi Jonas and Dairy Australia's Amy Fay.

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SHOULD women in agriculture form a political party in an effort to get their voices heard on a national level?

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SHOULD women in agriculture form a political party in an effort to get their voices heard on a national level?

That was just one of the many ideas raised at the second annual 'Women in Food and Agriculture' lunch at Royal Melbourne Show held today - organised by the Royal Agriculture Society of Victoria (RASV).

A panel of women including Dairy Australia's Amy Fay, free range pig farmer Tammi Jonas, The Australian rural reporter Sue Neales, WA-based fashion designer Liz Davenport and Phillippa's Bakery founder Phillippa Grogan, spoke at the event.

ABC journalist Virginia Trioli was the emcee, and posed the question, how do women in agriculture increase demand for local produce?

But it was fashion designer Ms Davenport who urged women to get involved in politics.

She's been very outspoken on the wool industry over the years, saying it needs to be better managed.

"For years I thought we should have a political party called the Wool Party. Maybe there should be a Women in Agriculture party too?" she said.

She said agriculture was critically important, but that women must stand up for what they believe in.

"Politics is what changes the law," she added.

"You've got to be in a position where you can formulate policy."

Dairy Australia's Amy Fay said promoting local food was important, but there were other issues to consider.

"Local produce is important, but it is one component of a wider and sophisticated industry," she said.

Having access to a range of markets was vital and was a huge driver for the economy, Ms Fay said.

"If we have a profitable agricultural industry, with access to a range of markets, we can also have really vibrant rural communities," she said.

"This in turn helps to facilitate the development of local niche markets and short supply chains.

"You need to have both to have a prosperous agricultural industry."

She encouraged women to communicate what makes agriculture important, as well as educate the community about where food comes from and how it was made.

"If we do this on a number of levels, whether that is local business, state or national, then we can support the industry - and create local gourmet brands that will fulfil the needs of hipsters in Brunswick," she said.

"And that can also fulfil market demand for our food in China, where people are willing to pay $10 a litre for our milk."

Tammi Jonas, who runs a free range pig farm near Daylesford, said women were leading the fair food movement, while rural reporter Sue Neales brought up a few pertinent points.

As a former Stock & Land markets reporter, Ms Neales said when she first entered the industry at 21 years old, she was often the only female in the room.

But she said things had changed, and more women were starting to take on leadership roles.

She also believed women were more likely to challenge the current situation, and that was a trait that was needed in agriculture today.

"When women come into a rural community, they bring skills in, and they challenge the status quo," she said.

Phillippa's Bakery founder Ms Grogan said it was vital women played a part in teaching people the real value of food.

"Food is seen as too much of a commodity that can just be wasted and thrown away," she said.

"There's a lot of information that's not being told in the agriculture sector, and if people don't know the value of food, why would they pay more for it?"

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