News

New project shines light on female dairy farmers

By Dairy News Australia

Dairy women from eastern Australia are being sought for a unique project highlighting the visibility and responsibilities of Australia’s female farmers.

The Visible Farmer film project is travelling around Australia to record stories about the women behind food and fibre production, and the vital, innovative role they play.

“We’re hoping this unique documentary series will change perceptions and inspire new generations of women to help shape the future of Australia's sustainable food production,” producer and director of the project Gisela Kaufmann said.

“The world’s future depends on food security and we hope, by giving women farmers a contemporary, authentic voice and showcasing their diversity across different backgrounds, ages and sectors in Australian agriculture, we will help inspire other women to feel part of the industry.

“Our aim is to show examples of what type of farmers women can be in Australia.”

So far, Ms Kaufmann’s film crew have gathered and produced stories from remote outback stations to urban market gardens, including Nicole May, a dairy farmer in the Margaret River region, Belinda Lay, an Esperance sheep and wheat farmer, Debbie Dowden, a sheep farmer in the southern rangelands of Western Australia, goat and lamb farmer Chris Higham of Gascoyne, Melissa Charlick, a market gardener at Gidgegannup, Xanadu wines grape grower, Suzie Muntz, Carnarvon fruit grower, Joanne Symonds, and Rhonda Westerberg, an Albany fish farmer.

Kath Cameron, flower farmer at Metricup, Kimberley pastoralist Darrylin Gordon, and insect farmer Paula Pownall of Coolup, added further diversity to the series of films that have been completed so far.

“Producing these films is a journey to change the broader community’s perception of who a farmer is,” Ms Kaufmann said.

“Many people don’t realise that 49 per cent of all food in Australia is produced by women.

“If we want to change the perception about who produces our food, we need to have the stories to do it.

“We started in Western Australia because the Rural Regional Remote Women’s Network of WA was the first women’s group that got back to us and told us to visit.

“Each episode is an inspiring story with passion and substance, as diverse as the industry the women are working in and the challenges they face.”

Cameraman Carsten Orlt filming dairy farmer Nicole May for the Visible Farmer series.

As with the other women’s stories, Ms Kaufmann’s film crew moved their caravan onto the dairy farm of Nicole and Ronald May; and spent a week documenting Mrs May’s life.

“I saw a (social media) post about Visible Farmer from another woman farmer, in northern WA, and I thought, ‘I’m looking forward to seeing this project and the women they interview’,” Mrs May said.

“Then my neighbour nominated me to be involved.

“Gisela and her crew were really passionate about what they’re doing, but also really patient with me. It was fun.

“They followed me around for a week and I was just doing my normal work.

“They came with me to bring the cows in for morning milking and feeding calves and my usual day.

“They were very determined to see a cow calve down naturally and they waited quietly so they had the footage for the documentary.”

Mrs May said the project was a good way to showcase the work of a farmer and the jobs available in agriculture.

She encourages women to consider farming as a career.

“I do love the farm and the work I do here, the variety in each day,” she said.

“A lot of dairy farmers prefer having women milking in the shed.

“Sometimes farm work might be a matter of strength, but other than that women can do the same work.”

 Dairy farmers Rodney and Nicole May, Brantina Farm, with Gisela Kaufmann, director and producer of the Visible Farmer series. Photos: Kaufmann Productions.

Ms Kaufmann said the project highlighted issues, such as skilled labour shortages in agriculture, poor internet connectivity, mentoring and skills development, the data-driven business of farming, new technologies, the challenge of combining parenting and farming, community responsibilities and working in partnership with other family members.

“Farming is such a complicated job and filming this series I have found more women at the forefront of farming than I thought there was,” she said.

“It really is very inspiring, and I think people will connect to these stories because they are very personal stories.”

Each woman approves the film before it is released for public viewing.

● For more information about the project, or to nominate yourself or another woman, go online to visiblefarmer.com.au or to the Facebook page of Visible Farmer.