VoiceOver users please use the tab key when navigating expanded menus

Cultivating female talent in agriculture


“(Women are) starting to be recognised for the contribution they make… [they] provide a different perspective.” – Michelle Cousins


The Marshman family from, Bartleville Grain.


The agriculture industry has changed so much over the past decade with new technologies, new climates - and new mindsets about the role women can play in running a successful business.


Michelle Cousins sees endless opportunities across the whole production system for women to make a real difference in agriculture.


“We're seeing a lot more women in agriculture, especially in leadership roles,” she explains. “Whether that be within their own businesses, their own farms or within industry body groups. They're starting to be recognised for the contribution they make… [they] provide a different perspective,” says Michelle, Cousins Merino Services co-director


She says the future for women in agriculture is unlimited and that women need to have a seat at the table in order to drive agriculture in the future.



Barlteville Grain CEO Ben Marshman believes gender shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone looking to enter into agriculture and he encouraged all his children – including his three girls – to get involved with the family farm from a young age.


We've never put limitations on what they can do in the future,” he says. “We like to give them the opportunity to see what pathways are out there.”


“We developed a family council for our business. Succession… is very important so the children come along to meetings and we provide as much information as we can so they can make an informed choice moving forward if they would like to be part of the operating business,” Ben says.


Farm hand Lucy Parker started her agriculture career working through her gap year but enjoyed the experience so much she decided to stay on.


I worked at different silos to give me a better understanding of how the system works,” she recalls. “I really enjoy the manual side of farming - I drive all of the machinery.”




Established by the United Nations, the International Day of Rural Women recognises “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty”.


It acknowledges, and values, the strength and tenacity that lies within individuals in communities. This often underappreciated resource has the capacity to change lives and communities for the better.


The UN’s theme for this year’s event, ‘Rural women cultivating good food for all’, speaks to this and also highlights the potential of rural women the world over to make lasting and meaningful change to their communities.


While the Australian rural women’s experience differs to that of rural women in developing economies, something they have in common are the qualities of resilience, determination, resourcefulness and a commitment to helping their communities thrive.




The future of farming


Another element of agriculture which is creating opportunities for women to excel is the advances in technology and data.


A major part of Michelle’s business is providing data management services to farms as well as electronic identification of livestock.


“We're seeing producers take up the advantages associated with this technology. [It makes the] farming systems a lot easier to manage,” she says. “Women are really embracing this technology and working with it. They can often be the drivers on properties for new technology.”



Ben admits his daughters are more skilled at the analytical work involved in farming than he is.


“Within the next 10 years, there are going to be new roles on growing properties for farming technology. That's becoming quite specialised and people will have a degree in those areas. It will be a very important part of agriculture moving forward,” he says.


While she enjoys the manual labour involved in farming, Lucy believes technology is playing a more significant role.


I've learnt a lot about the technology that can improve farms and how they run,” she says.  “It's nice to see the mindset change.”


Courteney Kemp is Agribusiness Manager at ANZ


Related articles:

Driving force to connect rural women

Cattle station, big cities, regional centres and rural towns; Courteney Kemp shares her journey and advice as she leads the next generation of women in Agriculture.

Banking on rural women

ANZ graduate Felicity Jones is using her experience in muddy paddocks to help farming customers.

Great scope for career growth in regional towns

With regional job opportunities at an all-time high, Sarah Simpson, manager at a fuel distribution company in the Victorian town of Alexandra shares her experience as a woman in what was once considered a male-dominated industry.