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Rural women gather in Yarra Valley to celebrate International Rural Women's Day

A gathering of progressive and inspiring rural women was held in the Yarra Valley last Thursday, with the group enjoying a luncheon to celebrate International Day of Rural Women hosted by agribusiness banking specialist, Rabobank at Helen's Hill Estate.

Providing a rare opportunity for like-minded rural women to come together, the day showcased the crucial role women play in their businesses, communities and families, and how leading by example provides young women with role models when considering a career in agriculture.

Featuring savvy businesswoman, Katrina Myers from Barham Avocados, Ms Myers shared her passion for the family business, her community and her region and how important these events are to “surround yourself with positive people and share knowledge to learn from one another.”

Run as a Q & A session by Rabobank's business programs manager, Nerida Sweetapple, Ms Myers gave insights into running a multi-generational business, which includes her mother, Debbie Warne and her husband Tim, and their three young children.

The family farm, ‘Horseshoe-Bend’ at Barham in the western Riverina, has been in the family for four generations, with Ms Myer’s parents planting their first tree 40 years ago. Avocados are now the core business, with 200 tonnes of fruit produced each year and plans afoot to increase production further.

"I have always loved farming and feel grateful that Tim and I made the decision to return to the family farm five years ago," Ms Myers said. "But farming is like any other business, you have to be innovative or you won't survive."

Ms Myers, who is strongly focused on differentiating her product by connecting with consumers, said you can have the "best product in the world but if people don't know about it – it doesn't matter.”

"You can have the best wheat, the best avocados, the best carrots, but with the marketplace the way it is, you have to find a way to stand out from the crowd,” she said. “And for us, this has meant selling our value-proposition directly to our consumers, which is all about our delicious fresh produce that is pesticide free, and grown with love and picked by hand.”

"Consumers want to know about the food they are buying, so we love sharing our story with them, which is not only a story about us, but our region and community."

To engage with their consumers, Ms Myers said they have direct and regular contact

through their strong social media presence, sharing content @BarhamAvocados on Twitter and at facebook.com/barhamavocados.

“We also post a blog on our website and send out an online newsletter, which encourages consumers to engage with us directly,” she said. “Farm tours have also proved to be a fun way to see our operation first-hand, while the farmers markets give us regular contact with those in the local area.”

With Ms Myers committed to promoting her community, she was instrumental in establishing Red Gum Food Group (RGFG), which represents local producers passionate about promoting the Koondrook-Barham region as a food bowl.

Incorporating Barham’s avocados as well as olives, citrus, pork, wine, walnuts, lamb and garlic – the group hosts monthly farmers’ markets as well as events and festivals.

Ms Myers, a strong advocate for women in agriculture, says much of her inspiration has come from her mother and grandmother – two strong, successful women.

“My grandmother has received an OAM in recognition of her community service, while my mother single-handedly ran the business for 10 to 15 years after the passing of my father.”

For women considering a career in agriculture, Ms Myers suggests “doing your research to find out where the gap in the market is, and then looking at what other small producers have done to get themselves going – as anything is possible”.

Rabobank helps facilitate this process by running a series of sustainable business initiatives, including farm exchange programs to give city students a taste of life on the land, financial women’s workshops and mentoring programs as well as, business management programs for up-and-coming farmers as well as, established operators.

Celebrated on October 15 each year, International Day of Rural Women is an initiative of the United Nations, which celebrates the important role that women play in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide.

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 115 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.8 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is one of Australasia’s leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:
Denise Shaw 
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com 

Skye Ward
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103
Email: skye.ward@rabobank.com