A woman’s place is in agriculture

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A woman’s place is in agriculture

Ruby dairy farmer Leanne Verboon.

RUBY dairy farmer Leanne Verboon is a big supporter of women in agriculture.
She has been involved with numerous groups and recently became a board member of Hico.
Last week Leanne spoke to Star journalist Chris Brown.
Tell me about your involvement in agriculture?
I was not brought up on a farm, but I met my husband, Bill, and his family were share farmers at Koonwarra. I married Bill in 1974 and share farmed for 12 months to two years and then we purchased this farm at Ruby off my grandfather and we’ve been dairying ever since.
What off farm agriculture roles have you had?
I didn’t do a lot of off farm things for many years, because I was looking after our seven children. In the last five to six years I’ve been involved with discussion groups, a foundation member of Murray Goulburn’s women in farming group and I was on the Gippsland Herd Improvement board, which amalgamated to form Hico, but had to resign due to the amalgamation. I nominated and am now a board member of Hico. I’ve been very supportive of my husband and felt the time was right to have a little bit more involvement in the industry apart from on farm.
Were there other things that led to the off farm involvement?
I suppose raising the awareness of women in agriculture. I found when representatives called up, or others on the phone, they would ask to speak to your husband or the person who runs the farm. I would say, ‘well, I have a big input into the running of the farm, perhaps I can answer your question?’ When they sort of fobbed you off I thought, people need to be made aware that women know just as much and they have as much value working on the farm as men do.
Why do you think there was that kind of reaction when you answered the phone?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s an old fashioned type thing. Farmers have always been thought of as being the men. It’s improved over the years because women have got out there and people have recognised the value of women in agriculture, so I would hope that frame of mind has changed. In the beginning it was very off putting.
Are there things you’d like to say to other farming women in South Gippsland?
I think years ago women weren’t recognised and maybe didn’t want to be recognised for what they did on the farm. Whether it was seen as a putdown for them, because they were seen as ‘you’re just a dairy farmer,’ rather than the business it is. Since there’s been discussion groups and women’s groups over the years, I would hope that’s changed and women are not afraid to let others know what they do on the farm. So I would say, don’t be afraid of being recognised for the input you give to the farm and the family.
Are there other barriers that need to be broken down?
Probably in the upper spectrums of dairy organisations. There are a lot of women with prominent roles in GippsDairy, but I think there is still a long way to go. We still don’t have any women on major boards of dairy companies. I know I was the first woman with GHI; now I’m with Hico there are two women on the board. That to me is a positive thing.
What is your role on the Hico board?
I had less than a year’s experience on the GHI board. It’s very hard when you first come on a board. It’s a learning curve, especially when you haven’t been involved in a lot of the higher workings of a co-op. Now I’m on the Hico board, which I have only just been elected to, I would hope to be very involved in their board discussions. It’s a crucial time in the herd improvement industry, with a lot of competition out there, and sometimes changes need to be made.

Short URL: http://www.thestar.com.au/?p=73

Posted by Chris Brown on Sep 15 2009. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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