Women of Elders, proudly shaping Australian agriculture - Elders Rural Services

Women of Elders, proudly shaping Australian agriculture

In the lead up to today’s International Day of Rural Women (IDRW), Elders have featured a handful of women across social media who play an important role in the Elders business, and who help to shape their corner of the Australian agriculture industry.

Importantly, we recognise their contribution to the success of Elders, and the industry more widely.

“It goes without saying that women have been crucial to the ongoing success of the Elders business over our 182-year life span,” says Elders CEO Mark Allison.

Read on below, where we chat to a few our very own rural women, each with their advice for others in the industry.

robyn-clubb

What role do you play at Elders and the agriculture industry?

I am a non-executive director of Elders and was first elected to the Board in 2015. The Board of six (50 per cent women) oversees the strategic direction of the organisation working closely with Mark Allison and the management team. I am also a director on other boards in the agricultural industry including wool, pigs, chickens, fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, and beef, lamb and pork processing. So quite an interest and deep involvement evolving over time from growing up on a property near Cooma, Southern Tablelands, NSW running beef cattle and Merino sheep. My love of the land continues as I live on my farm running beef cattle near Braidwood in the Southern Tablelands of NSW. A 20-year career in financial services intervened between university and commencing my work as a non-executive director in 2004.

What do you love about working in ag?

I love working with other people who are passionate about producing food and fibre of the highest quality in a sustainable way. The ability to influence and achieve better practices in areas such as animal welfare, land management, and the safety and welfare of people in the Ag space is challenging and very fulfilling.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Two that come to mind are being the first woman to be elected to the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW in 1993 (I was quite young then!), and becoming a director of Elders.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

Taking on roles, such as Chair of AWEX, Chair of the Rice Marketing Board, joining the RAS of NSW Council were daunting tasks as the first woman in such traditionally male-dominated industries/organisation. Although there was some opposition, there were many men and women very supportive and encouraging me to ‘have a go’. My upbringing on a farm (drought etc), the support from my parents, and my education provided a solid foundation of determination, resilience, knowledge and survival skills.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

Involve yourself in industry associations in areas of your particular interest. There is so much to be gained from those knowledgeable and experienced people who give their time to progressing their industries, beyond just the commercial objectives. There are also some wonderful friendships that emerge as well.

head-shot-tania-foster

What role do you play at Elders and the agriculture industry? 

I am currently Chief Financial Officer at Elders.  I manage a team of 100 people responsible for not only all financial and management reporting, but also encompasses accounts payable, payroll, fleet and property management, credit and indirect procurement.  I am relatively new to Elders, starting my role in June this year and with the challenges of COVID I have not really been able to connect with our network and other industry bodies to build relationships face to face.  However, my connection with the agri industry has been life-long given I grew up on a sheep and cattle property in the Western District where my family still farm today as well as owning my own farm in the district.

What do you love about working in ag? 

The people – practical, passionate and resilient, the country – the space and beauty of our landscape and the animals (breeding, genetics and product).

What has been your biggest achievement? 

Becoming one of the few women in a “C-Suite” role in an ASX200 company (at Elders) and surviving 20 years in banking!

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?  

I have never considered my gender as a limitation to success, having said that, you do come across some pretty archaic attitudes.  With the agri sector becoming more sophisticated; (increasingly digital, greater numbers of rules and regulation, addressing climate change and innovation driving productivity) women with a passion for agriculture, knowledge and education have an increasingly important role to play.  There are a lot more roles that attract woman in a modern agri world, not only in corporate roles, but on the land as innovation removes the labour intensity and increases productivity. I believe provides more interesting career options.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry? 

Invest in education.  Having a passion for the agri is important, but education will give you relevance in an increasingly sophisticated agri sector, whether that is in business, environment, agronomy or IT/sciences to develop innovative products.

carly-longmuir

What role do you play at Elders and the agriculture industry?

My current role is Livestock TSM in the Kimberleys in WA where I have been based for over four years now. In my role I buy and sell cattle for our clients. These are drafted to certain specifications depending on what the buyer is after. Majority of our cattle in the North go to Export out of Broome, with a percentage of older cattle going south to meat processors.

Previously I worked as a TSM with CSBP as a fertiliser rep based in the central wheatbelt WA. This role involved helping farmers with their fertiliser inputs to meet yield expectations for that season.

I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm 45km North of Koorda. Pretty much from when I left school I worked on the off the farm in between station jobs and traveling around Australia. We had a Dohne Stud, ran about 1500 commercial sheep and cropping.  I also had my own lease land of which I ran sheep and some crop on.

What do you love about working in ag?

I enjoy learning how to get the best out of the land. Whether it be growing a wheat crop, pastures for livestock or breeding animals that suit your area. Either for your clients or for yourself, it’s rewarding when the livestock is sold or the crops are harvested with good out comes.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Getting up in the morning 😉. Its very satisfying when you win a new customer/client.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

I think any industry is challenging at first, getting your head around a new job can be hard at first. Some clients were challenging at first as there were not many women in the industry back when I was younger, but with the support of the company and colleges you gain respect and they slowly change their minds. In my experience over the last 20 odd years things have changed and it has become a lot more accessible for women who want to be in the ag industry.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

If you want it go for it, if you don’t get it keep trying. It is not all males working these jobs so don’t be afraid to give it a go.

close-up-smiling-sophie-schultz-in-cow-paddock

What role do you play at Elders and the agriculture industry?

I’m a Senior Agronomist with Elders and am responsible for managing a team of four other agronomists, both in horticulture and broad acre. I grew up on a family farm at Hatherleigh in the South East of South Australia (which my dad still runs), went to University in Adelaide and did a degree in Agricultural Science. I started my professional career as an agronomist in Victoria’s Western Districts.

What do you love about working in ag?

The people.

What has been your biggest achievement?

My degree, not only for me but for my parents too. They provided me with so much support and guidance. They gave me the tools and now I get to use them!

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

Being taken seriously. I was taught by a brilliant agronomist so the foundations were there but I have had to continue building on that knowledge base and creating relationships with clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, tall or short if you know what you’re talking about generally, clients want to deal with you.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

Have a go! The ag industry is so exciting and forever changing. It challenges you and it can be so rewarding.

dalene-devonshire

Can you provide a brief overview of your current role within Elders and the agriculture industry?

I have been a part of the Elders team for five years as a Customer Solutions Manager, predominately looking after the Northern Corporate Pastoral clients for all of their farm supplies requirements. I spent my teenage years growing up on the land and was a vet nurse for many years.

What do you love about working in ag?

That we are a part of an industry which produces food and fibre. Ultimately, we are in the business of feeding and clothing people, anyone who works in ag should be proud of that.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Not so much a big achievement but something which reminds me of why I am in this role. Researching and sourcing equipment from Europe for a client which they hadn’t previously been able to get. Looking at a problem as a challenge and solving it for a client may not be a huge achievement but can be very rewarding.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

Myself! By nature as women we place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to succeed and I feel this can increase in male dominated industries. However, this doesn’t have to be a negative. The pressure of always striving to succeed is a strength, the challenge I have had to manage has been my own expectations.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

Just do it! There are huge opportunities for women in ag. It doesn’t matter which sector of the industry, there is a need for people who have organisational skills, attention to detail, nurturing qualities, problem solving skills just to name a few. I just described a woman!

lauren-curtis

Can you provide a brief overview of your current role within Elders and the agriculture industry?

My current role at Elders is Riverland Operations Manager. My role varies! From overseeing operations for merchandise admin, to being the main point of contact for Rural Bank general enquiries, to managing and overseeing real estate operations, training and mentoring six Property Managers and four SSO’s. I also directly assist our Livestock Territory Sales Manager and provide support whether that be organising clearing sales/ram sales and overseeing the operations of livestock in general.

I grew up on a mixed broadacre farm at Galga, where my parents have a mixture of sheep, grain, lentils and lucerne pivot. Growing up, I spent many hours after school and on weekends helping my parents – driving the tractor, yarding sheep on the motorbike or roustabout work. There was no time to get homework done. That said, working on the land was much preferred. I did my schooling at East Murray Area School where I completed Year 12. Before the term was finished, I started my first job at Elders Mannum where I was a trainee Real Estate admin. I moved to Loxton a couple of years later where I met my now husband and we have two beautiful girls together. I started working for Elders Loxton in 2015 when our youngest child was just five months old and have continued to work full time. I started in a Property Management role there and then a couple of years later there was an opportunity for me to step into my current position.

What do you love about working in ag?

Ag is an area that I am passionate about and have always been interested in, purely because I grew up on a farm and enjoyed my life on the farm. I love the people, relationships and the casual side of this business. Ag is an interesting field you can never get bored!

What has been your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement would be stepping up into my current role as Riverland Operations Manager. I thrive on success in life and becoming a team leader is something I am very proud of.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

One of the biggest challenges would be equality in the ag field. It is improving, but you focus on the skills necessary to give you opportunities such as communication skills, leadership development and speaking up to be heard.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

It’s persistence, hard work and not forgetting your dream. If you are passionate about what you do you will succeed in life.

fiona-prior

Can you provide a brief overview of your current role within Elders and the agriculture industry?

As a Area Manager with Elders, I am responsible for business development and improvement within my region. Main areas also include coaching and mentoring of staff. Coming from a rural background in Far North Queensland and having experience with roles at different levels with supplier, wholesale and retail I love the diversity and constant change in this role and love being in Central Queensland and wearing the pink shirt.

What do you love about working in ag?

The best part is the people. I have had diversity in my previous roles and travelled quite a bit, the people have always been amazing and constantly reinforce why agriculture is the back bone of Australia. People on the land are hardworking, resilient, innovative, grounded and we are lucky to be surrounded by them.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Personally, watching my children grow into really great humans is my biggest achievement. Work wise, I’ve been really lucky to have been able to be part of developing and assisting people to grow and find their places in our industry. It’s very satisfying to have someone share with you that you were part of their growth and were there when they needed an ear.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

I feel really lucky to have not had too many challenges. If you work hard, the respect and opportunities come. Its so good to see so many young people choosing ag as a career, we are in a good space and our future is bright.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

Anything is possible with hard work, respect, compassion and a sense of joy. Ask for feedback often from trusted mentors and try to grow a little every day. Aim big – you’ve got this!

ashlee-kerrison

Can you provide a brief overview of your current role within Elders and the agriculture industry? 

I have lived in the North-East of Tasmania my whole life – 35 years. I have worked in rural supplies for 16 years and been the Branch Manager at Elders Scottsdale for two years.

What do you love about working in ag?

I enjoy the fantastic relationships we have with our clients. It’s very rewarding to be able to assist and work with our clients and be an active part of their business.

What has been your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement would be taking on my current position as Branch Manager at Elders Scottsdale. I started my career in agriculture 16 years ago in an administration type role without much of a background in sales or farming. I have gradually increased my knowledge in customer service, rural products and built on my management skills to qualify me for my current Branch Manager position.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

In a previous position, I felt that I was stereotyped into what my capabilities were because I was a woman in what has predominately been a male dominated field. I was overlooked by previous managers as ever progressing further into a management role or trusted with opportunities to further develop my skills.

I overcame this by always sticking to my core beliefs and values and doing what I felt was the right thing. This has in turn led to me holding strong relationships with key clients and two years ago an employment opportunity with Elders as Branch Manager where I have found like-minded people with the same core beliefs and values all working towards the same goal.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

Strive to work for a company that shares your core values around what’s important! If you are all working towards the same goal and you believe in the methods used to reach your targets it makes your role in the company so much more rewarding. And try to look at challenges as positive opportunities to increase your skills.

lauren-marchant

Can you provide a brief overview of your current role within Elders and the agriculture industry?

I grew up on a mixed cropping farm in NSW which had fine wool Merinos and broadacre dual purpose crops (crops that can be grazed by livestock).

Being around this country lifestyle really drove my passion for agriculture, my father is an agronomist, so I spent all my holidays out in the ute with him learning how to identify weeds, pests and diseases. This made me realise that I wanted to work in the agriculture industry.

I worked as an agronomist for six years, where I worked under two branches developing a client base in a new area.

I wanted to progress my sales and business skills, so I joined an R&D chemical company where I got exposure to both horticulture and broadacre crops.

I have been in my current role as State Rural Products Manager for NSW with Elders for nine months. My role includes procurement of Agchem, Fertiliser and Seed at a NSW state level, As well as overseeing NSW for rural products.

What do you love about working in ag?

I love that no two days are the same, its a fast pace environment where you are constantly faced with changing technologies. I also love the innovation involved in agriculture and my favourite part is seeing all the new solutions that are on offer.

What has been your biggest achievement?

This is a hard one, but my biggest achievement work wise is my career progression, I have work hard to gain a wide range of knowledge in different areas within the agricultural industry, which has helped me to where I am today. So my biggest achievement as cheesy as it sounds is getting my current role with Elders,  It has allowed me to work with some amazing people.

Personal achievements is buying my small farming block which allows me to run a small herd of highland cattle.

Other work achievements I have had, Salesperson of the year Australia and overall award for salesperson for Australia/New Zealand in 2017 with BASF (previous company I worked for) this enabled me to attended study tour overseas with them to UK and the US.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?

Early on it was gaining the trust from more traditional clients. I overcame this challenge by researching – I looked for common ground, looked into the farms background and what was and wasn’t working and looked at new proven ways of increasing their profits on their farms. It was never easy but with focus and determination you can achieve anything.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry?

Don’t let anyone tell you, you cannot do or be something. I am a strong believer that you can do anything as long as you approach it with the right mindset. Its all about getting out there and having a go. Don’t let failure get you down, always get back up, get advice and approach it from a different angle and think outside the square.

breanna-hayes-with-friends-child

What role do you play at Elders and the agriculture industry? 

I am the District Wool Manager for the Midlands, North Midlands and Avon Valley areas in Western Australia. This basically entails providing advice to growers on how to prepare and market their wool clip. It also involves more intense behind the scenes aspects to my role such as sheep classing and wool classing. These are both crucial parts of my role as it helps drive flock profitability building, trust and stronger relationships. I love my job because I get a good overall view of client’s business and it’s nice to be involved in all aspects. Recently I have been involved in buying rams, which has been awesome as it shows the trust and confidence clients have in my abilities.

I grew up in rural New Zealand but I spent more time with cows than hanging out with sheep. Back in the day Dad was a shearer and mum was a roustabout, who both had worked in Australia and always talked about it with fond memories. I think that’s where my interest in the industry began. I first came to WA as a Roustabout in 2012, where I was meant to stay for three months, which turned into two years. From there I did stints in other states and then returned to WA. I have been in Australia for nine years now.

What do you love about working in ag? 

I fell in love with the wool industry as I always felt you did a honest day’s work and it was a great way to travel. Working in a shearing team meant I got to hang out with farmers and who would take me to all the local spots that you wouldn’t see as a tourist, we spent years travelling Australia and got to see some amazing sights not many people would get the opportunity to see. For example, we recently camped out on a client’s property, in a paddock full of wild flowers. It was pretty spectacular. I love the diverse aspect of my job, with being a DWM it’s not just selling wool – everything crosses over, rams, genetics, animal health, worms, diseases – I get involved in all of this. It’s all relevant to what I’m doing and helps me provide better value service to my clients.

A lot of farmers don’t talk to their neighbour or get time to learn this stuff – but we do and we can provide such value. It’s so important at the moment to provide that value and link all the pieces together

Working in ag means I am always doing something new and different. There is no chance to get bored and I am active all the time – not trapped in an office. There is always something to learn and new skills to gain– the Elders network is so good for that. If you can track down the right person and ask the right questions you can get any information you need.

What has been your biggest achievement? 

My greatest achievement this year was having the opportunity to assist a client with the purchase of his rams and gaining recognition from some well-respected long term industry professionals.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman working in ag and how have you overcome this?  

My biggest challenge has been gaining trust and respect from some of the older generation. There is sometimes the  expectation that you’re not as good as a man which can make it harder prove yourself. I’ve had some fantastic people within the Elders network that have offered me the opportunity to get out on farm and prove myself, some of these things were as basic as showing that I can work in the heat and dust in the back of the yards and that I have that sixth sense you need when working with sheep. I’ve overcome this challenge by working hard, learning as much as possible and being very upfront and honest from the start.

One of the main differences with my role is that you’re not just a sales person in a shop somewhere – you’re in their business and on farm etc. It’s all about the trust and the relationship you have with your client. One issue that does come up is the fear clients have that as a woman you will have kids and leaveT the thing that helps me overcome this issue is knowing that I’ve got the support from Elders if I was to have children. We have women in our team with children and farms are usually family run businesses so the industry is accepting.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other women looking to establish a career in the ag industry? 

Ask all the questions and take everything opportunity you are offered! Don’t take no for an answer – be determined. Trust in yourself that you have the ability and push through. Not everyone’s opinion of you matters, It will get easier and you’ll find your niche. Build good relationships – you don’t have to get on with everyone but those you do have good relationships with will be key.

Are you considering a job in agriculture? We’re always on the look out for talent.

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