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Gabrielle champions a new generation of women into Ag this IRWD

Posted by Rabobank Australia on

08/10/2023

Hailing from a long line of visionary rural women, Victoria’s Gabrielle Goldsworthy never doubted her future lay in agriculture.

And whilst admitting to some initial preconceived stereotypes surrounding women in ag, she believes the needle has now well and truly shifted.

Gabrielle is a fourth year veterinary science student at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, and says it’s a course heavily weighted with women.

Likewise, she’s surrounded by other passionate young females as part of the university’s meat judging club, with at least half of this traditionally male dominated team now women. 

“Everywhere I look there are women doing really cool things in agriculture, and my experience has been so positive,” she smiles. “I’ve had some incredible women take me under their wing, and I think that’s the beauty of modern agriculture.”

“This International Rural Women’s Day I reflect on all the beautiful and strong women in ag who have supported me, and I really can’t go past my mother and grandmother – they are fundamental to who I am and how I fit into the world of agriculture.”

Settling in the Beechworth region during the gold rush times, Gabrielle's family has been a driving force in beekeeping and honey production in Australia since the 1880s.

Her grandmother Jan Robinson was the first full-time commercial beekeeper in the industry, carving out a legacy for female beekeepers, and her mother Jodie, together with her father Steven, created Beechworth Honey – now a nationally acclaimed brand and a staple of households across Australia.    

 “I feel so proud of all the work both these women have done in the bee industry, they’re both very inspirational women.”

Putting passion into action

As the beekeeping industry currently grapples with the severity of varroa mite, it will soon be Gabrielle’s turn to lend her unique skills to the industry.

“The industry is going through a tough time at the moment, trying to work out how we can live with this pest that will impact so broadly, not only beekeepers' businesses but ag systems nationally, with bees important pollinators for much of our food supply.”

With her unique first-hand insights into beekeeping coupled with her university veterinarian learnings, Gabrielle hopes to be part of the varroa mite solution.   

“Learning to live with varroa will need to be underpinned by sound knowledge and understanding of the animal husbandry side of managing bees, and I hope that in the future I can couple this with my developing skills as a veterinarian. I hope to be able to have a positive impact within the industry somehow in the future.”

A sweet family enterprise mixing work and play

Gabrielle’s parents worked tirelessly growing Beechworth Honey with the goal to purchase their own farm, eventually buying a mixed cropping and cattle property in the district on which they raised their three children.

The family are now using this agricultural enterprise as a training ground, where 25-year-old Gabrielle and her siblings, Ben and Brooke, navigate working together, supporting their way through university and putting knowledge gained through their tertiary degrees into practice.

Lessons learned through this process will be naturally incorporated into the succession plans for the family run Beechworth Honey Group.

“My family has never shied away from hard work, and my parents really wanted to see us all working together to make joint decisions and trial things to build a future in the agricultural industry we love, whilst also testing initiatives we are curious about.”

“We’re forever grateful for the opportunity, being out in nature feels like home, and I see ag as being intangible between work and pleasure, when you’re outdoors doing what you love it doesn’t really feel like work.”

Gabrielle said it was also exciting to be working in the industry during such a significant shift towards more sustainable outcomes.

“The industry is working hard to ensure we all leave our land and environment in a healthier state, and this is something we can all be really proud of.”

“We need to work hard to do better, and meet environmental challenges. Increasing our farming efficiencies also goes hand-in-hand with economics – running a more efficient and sustainable enterprise is equally good for the bottom line, so really it’s a no brainer.”

With Rabobank Senior Manager Ben White having supported the Goldsworthy family on their expansion journey, Gabrielle has been more than impressed by his interest in the operation’s next generation.

“Ben has been so engaged in what my siblings and I are doing and our involvement within both Beechworth Honey and the farms, and it’s really reassuring and encouraging to have this intergenerational relationship in place.” 

More than meats the eye

As a student of Charles Sturt University (CSU), Gabrielle is helping encourage the next generation into agriculture, namely through the university’s meat judging club committee.

This year CSU hosted the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association national conference, attracting teams from universities nationally for a four day series of presentations, panel discussions, careers and industry Expo, workshops, and the National Meat Judging Competition.

“It’s such a great opportunity to network with other students and leaders in the red meat industry, gain insights into the whole supply chain and the broad range of career options there are in the red meat industry,” Gabrielle believes.

An animal science undergraduate, Gabrielle believes that for students or young people in the industry, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal, and as such, the conference is a valuable tool for ‘connecting the dots’.   

“Many people don’t realise there are so many career avenues available through the red meat sector, and university meat judging clubs, and particularly the annual intercollegiate national conference is incredible for showcasing these options.”

This was exemplified recently through a young bloke in the local footy club Gabrielle encouraged to join the CSU meat judging team.

“He is completing a butchers apprenticeship whilst studying ag and thought he’d be a perfect fit in the team,” she explains. “Now he’s attended the conference, not only has he had the chance to showcase his skills and knowledge in the National Meat Judging Competition, the workshops, panel discussions and knowledge sharing has unlocked a whole new world of career opportunities in the red meat sector he would otherwise never have realised.”

"There’s so much innovation and science that goes into producing and marketing food post the farm gate, at the end of the day we’re selling a product and feeding the world.”

“We need to do this sustainably, and there's so many exiting roles required to do this for the consumer.”

With Rabobank a bronze sponsor of the CSU Intercollegiate meat judging national team, which competed in Wagga in July, Gabrielle believes this sort of commitment to agricultural education will have long-lasting benefits.

“Intercollegiate meat judging is an incredible opportunity for students to become engaged in the Australian agricultural and red meat industry - whilst being able to develop networks and connection with current and future industry representatives, and we’re very grateful to Rabobank for recognising its value.”

Helping stem the rural vet crisis

Currently completing her final years of veterinary science, Gabrielle is currently progressing through clinical placements across Australia, with Katherine, NT, one of her recent destinations.

“I really wanted to gain experience working in the northern cattle industry, it’s like a different world working in the north compared to the south, and it was so valuable to gain exposure to the different challenges and systems around Katherine.”

“Not to mention the incredible winter weather,” she laughs.

With her eyes firmly set on a career in regional Australia, she said the opportunity showcased the variability the role of a genuine mixed practice veterinarian entails.

“You can be saving a beloved little dog one minute, then performing surgery on a horse in the paddock the next, before working on a breeding management program on a large cattle station.”

“It’s pretty awesome work and the distance and remoteness of the region was eye-opening, with many of the vets up there having their pilots license to help mitigate some of the challenges.”

This International Rural Women’s Day she’s thrilled to be helping champion a new generation  – men, women, urban or rural – into agriculture.

“If you're willing to turn up and have a crack, there really are few barriers into ag these days, with the rewards and enormous career potential so exciting.”

“My grandfather used to say, ‘how can a tiny little thing like you be a cow vet?’ yet now he regularly phones me to ask for cattle advice, so I guess you could say I’m starting to prove him wrong!”