I recently had a conversation with the dynamo that is Catherine Marriott and the topic of driving change in agriculture came up and that led to a discussion about how lonely it can be when at times the words of your detractors drown out those of your supporters
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill
In creating the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program one of the key things that drove me was the overwhelming desire for them not to follow in my footsteps to loneliness and isolation and find that driving change initially too often galvanises those who desperately don’t want change.
Whilst these people don’t represent the majority their fear of change can be so draining and so vocal you often allow them to question your judgment and cloud your vision for the future.
Believe me you can never overestimate the power of surrounding yourself with positive people you can learn from.
Catherine has a great passion to drive change and harness the energy of rural women and I feel the same about young people in agriculture .
To empower and provide rural women with the skills sets to be the change that must happen in agriculture Catherine has set up Influential Women
In Catherine words
Influential Women is a movement that creates conversations that connect urban and rural Australia by building confidence, capacity and skills in rural and regional women. Currently, rural Australia has a huge opportunity to connect with our customers, as people are becoming more interested in how their food is produced. We need to take advantage of this interest by being engaging, fun, informative and innovative in our communication and this communication needs to be two way. As farmers, we have so much to share and are so passionate about what we do, but we haven’t historically been very good at communicating this.
The concept behind the Influential Women’s came from watching the live trade ban unfold. I started to reflect on the agricultural conversations that had been happening across the board and realised that we are under increasing consumer scrutiny. It doesn’t matter if you are in the chicken industry where there are questions about the cages are cages, the pig industry with sow stalls, the grains industry with GM or the beef industry with hormones and live export, we are all facing consumer pressure. The time has come for us all to be a part of the conversation. If we aren’t, the space will be taken by people who have an ill-informed, agenda driven opinion that is anti farming.and it mostly comes from ill-informed groups with a negative agricultural agenda.
Now as farmers, I believe we have nothing to hide, we need to share what we do on our farms openly and most importantly why we do certain things. We need to be proud of what we do in agriculture and share it with an intrigued and interested consumers and celebrate the roles that we play in providing the Australian public with safe healthy and nutritious food and fibre.
As farmers we need to have a voice……. and that voice needs to be constant, articulate and concise, friendly, engaging…. and delivered regularly.
How exciting is it for me to find some-one equally determined to not only drive change but most importantly invest in it .
At every opportunity I find ways and means of exposing our Young Farming Champions to the like-minded networks that Catherine gathers around her at her workshops.
In the words of Beef Young Farming Champion Hannah Barber who attended an Influential Women’s workshop recently in Holbrook
Having heard of Influential Women and the fantastic work this organisation does to connect and empower rural women, I was very grateful to the Holbrook Landcare group for their sponsorship to attend a workshop. Flanked by two other Young Farming Champions Steph Fowler and Jasmine Nixon, we met a range of impressive women of all ages, from all backgrounds involved in a variety of industries with one thing in common, our love for agriculture. Of these amazing women, leading the way forward was facilitator Catherine Marriot, who, teamed with her mother Cath, make up the very aptly named Influential Women.
Catherine’s talent as a presenter and facilitator are matched by her personal warmth and genuine desire to help rural women be the best they can be. Nearly every break Catherine forwent the casual conversation and refreshments to personally connect with & continue conversations with attendees.
After lunch on day one, a bare-footed Catherine presented a vital section on social media, something Steph, Jasmine and I were able to assist other women in the room to connect to, and understand the various social media avenues. The isolation of our rural societies was in the past, a major issue and blockade in the quest for farmers to connect with each other and consumers, thanks to the development of the internet and social media we now have the opportunity to be heard in our cities and have our issues recognised and addressed; we have a voice and united we can achieve great things as we have seen particularly over this past month.
I walked away from the Influential Women’s workshop very proud of our rural women, the Art4Agriculture program and with a virtual schoolbag of skills and knowledge I will be able to apply to various sectors of my personal and professional life. The networking of talented and driven women at the workshop and the guidance of Catherine who makes herself unreservedly available to workshop alumni, made the Influential Women’s workshop a very worthwhile way to spend my first two days of uni holidays and I highly recommend the workshops to women of all ages, abilities and industries, you will gain friendships and knowledge guaranteed.
and this from Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion Steph Fowler
Over the years I have done personality profiling type exercises and have long known that I am an extreme extravert, intuitive, thinker, perceiver or ENTP in Myers Briggs. While I have known what it means for my personal strengths and benefits, I haven’t seen how to apply this knowledge in a social context. Until the Influential Woman’s workshop in Holbrook that is. During the Myers Briggs session at the workshop, once we had all figured out our personality types, Catherine divided us into opposing types for the different sections and gave us a task which highlighted the differences. For me this opened up a whole new world where suddenly I can identify what I can do for other people to help them get what they need out of a situation rather than just allowing my own personality to dominate, objectify and focus on the big picture. The Myers Briggs personality type was one session out of many that provided not only the knowledge but also enabled us to apply it within our context and to things that were relevant to us. I gained so much out of this applied approach to the sessions and after spending two days with some of my fellow country woman who are all amazing in their own right, I am now more empowered and motivated than ever.
Catherine and the rural women who attend her workshops and the Young Farming Champions inspire me to get out of bed everyday, block the detractors from my mind and celebrate change. I salute you all