Talking helps clarify

Women in Grazing program focuses on topical issues

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FOCUS: South East LLS senior natural resource management advisor Annelies McGaw is an advocate of the Women in Grazing program.

FOCUS: South East LLS senior natural resource management advisor Annelies McGaw is an advocate of the Women in Grazing program.

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In developing the Women in Grazing program, LLS identified key areas it could help shine a light on.

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South East Local Land Services helps secure the future of agriculture and the environment for NSW communities.

The Next Crop talks to Annelies McGaw, Senior Natural Resource Management Advisor, South East LLS.

You are the driving force behind the Southern Tablelands Women in Grazing Initiative, can you tell us a bit about it?

Sure, one of the strategic goals of LLS is to build resilient rural communities. There are environmental, economic and social elements to this.

One of the social elements we have identified is the role of women in rural communities, particularly farming communities. In developing the program we identified a couple of key areas we thought we might be able to shine a light on.

Through Women in Grazing, funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, we’ve been able to offer opportunities for women to connect in their community over common, topical issues.

We’ve run two Women in Grazing events so far, the first one focused on agribusiness and tax planning. We covered both short-term and long-term goal setting and how to enable the business to best meet those goals. The second focused on communication, transition and succession, which is an emotive, challenging but ultimately rewarding topic.

They are both important topics but can be difficult to handle if you’re not sure how to approach them. Anything involving money and family and relationships can bring complications with it. However, providing women with tools to address these situations helps farming businesses communities and relationships.

Our role in this space is really to connect people. - Annelies McGaw

How is Local Land Services placed to support an initiative like this?

Our role in this space is really to connect people, to get everyone in the one place and to provide a supportive environment for what can be really difficult conversations.

We looked at these problems and thought how can we help? It is not our place to make decisions for people, but we can use our experience, knowledge and connections to shed some light on some options.

So we brought everyone together, got experts in to provide some insights that would give the participants some ideas and tools that would help them address these topics at home.

The feedback we’ve received around both of the events has been really positive and I must say it has been great to see so many farming women come out to the events, thirsty for knowledge and committed to making a difference for and a contribution to their families and communities.

How do you see agriculture as an industry faring in the next 10 to 20 years?

I’m optimistic, farmers are a resilient bunch. I’m a member of a farming business myself so I’m well aware of the challenges the industry faces, but I’m also aware of the opportunities.

I think what will be really important is making sure that rural communities are in a position where they can take advantage of those opportunities and can retain and attract the people who will be able to make the most of them. It’s about providing options to help agribusinesses and communities thrive in an ever-changing agricultural landscape. That’s why it is so important we are making use of all the talent and ideas and passion we have available, and Women in Grazing is about tapping into that and helping bring it to the fore. Tackling an emotional topic like succession planning is a difficult issue for most families, but it is essential for the continual growth and sustainability of the industry and our communities.

What major issues are facing farmers today?

As I said there are definite challenges facing farmers and farming communities today, but there are opportunities too. There are a number of issues; environmental, social and technological. I don’t think we should be trying to separate them out, because if we do that we miss the real picture. It’s about identifying the connections.

To face these challenges we’ll need solutions that protect and maintain the environment and provide for sustainable communities in the safest, most efficient and effective way possible. So to say that a challenge is strictly one or the other distracts us a bit from getting closer to a solution, because we’ll need to incorporate all of these aspects to be successful.

How can these issues be tackled?

The only way to tackle these issues is to talk about them, to acknowledge them, because you know, they’re not going to go away if you pretend they aren’t there, are they? By acknowledging them and talking about them we can share ideas and priorities and get a picture of how we can move forward. This is not easy, but I feel it is really important and it’s why I’m so passionate about the Women in Grazing initiative.

What can organisations do to attract investment in rural and regional areas?

LLS supports rural communities; sustainable rural communities is one of our key goals. We are here to help secure the future of agriculture and the environment in NSW. By doing what we do, by supporting and building capacity in communities, educating land managers and protecting markets and the environment we are helping provide the foundations for the rest of that to come. And we’re all really proud to be a part of that.

  • Local Lands Services is a gold sponsor of The Next Crop forums.
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