While drought, floods and now COVID-19 have tested the resilience of many in our rural and regional communities, there is one group that has historically flown under the radar who are well-versed in turning adversity into opportunity.
This International Rural Women’s Day (IRWD) on 15 October, GrainCorp is proud to celebrate some of the incredible rural women who are leading the way in Australian agriculture.
GrainCorp Grower Services Manager Chela Lamond and Natimuk Site Manager Larnie Hobbs are two of GrainCorp’s can-do women joining an online forum of women from across the agriculture industry in a special IRWD networking event.
They will share their career stories, experiences and challenges with an inspired and progressive group of rural women who are setting the pace in Australia’s agricultural industry.
“Push your own barrow”: Chela Lamond, Grower Services Manager, WA
Growing up in the small town of Kununoppin in WA, Chela was out on the farm helping her father drive tractors, muster sheep and feed pigs from as early as she can remember.
After a stint on a Northern Territory cattle station, Chela climbed the ranks in agribusiness, consulting and grain marketing to her current role as GrainCorp’s Grower Services Manager in WA.
Chela leads a team and buys grain from major growing areas in WA and SA, which is then supplied to many of GrainCorp’s biggest export customers – all while based on her husband’s family’s 5000-hectare property.
Her strong farming background and genuine passion for the industry have driven her career success – and she enjoys having a meaningful career while remaining on the farm.
“I really do feel I have the best of both worlds – talking with a wide variety of growers, knowing their selling targets, understanding seasonal conditions, all while living and working on our farm is something I’m very grateful for,” she said.
For Chela, one of the biggest challenges of living in a remote area is access to essential services, such as childcare and suitable working spaces.
“As a woman on the farm, you’re thrown into many roles by default – accounting, HR, childcare, not to mention my job – and you’re expected to tackle and complete every one of them.
“I’m often taking work calls while driving the water truck out to the boom spray when no one else can or while caring for my two children while my husband is working long hours during seeding and harvest.
“We’re about 70 kilometres from the nearest childcare centre and, until COVID-19 hit, we relied on au pairs every year. However, we’ve had to add childcare to our mix of roles over the last 12 months.
“At one point I thought, I’m going to have to resign – but the amazing support from GrainCorp and my team has allowed me to continue my full-time job, while juggling a young family and the farm.”Chela Lamond
Living in such a remote location means that the health and connectedness of small rural communities is close to Chela’s heart – and she’s passionate about using emerging technologies and online forums to help women stay connected.
“Women are natural communicators, so it’s really important we stay connected to each other, connected to our communities and fill the knowledge gaps together.
“There are so many clever rural women out there running small businesses who have been aided by better availability and service of the internet. It’s important that their potential is recognised and opportunities for self-education and upskilling are made available to them.”
“Don’t be afraid to put your hand up”: Larnie Hobbs, Site Manager, Victoria
From harvest casual to Site Manager in just three years, Larnie has raced up the GrainCorp charts.
Her impressive trajectory hasn’t stopped there: Larnie is currently Site Manager across GrainCorp’s sites at Natimuk, Carpolac, Hamilton and Naracoorte in Victoria – all of which broke site receival records during the 2020/21 harvest.
“Being raised on a farm near Warracknabeal, in Victoria, I knew agriculture was something I always wanted to be involved in,” said Larnie.
“I enjoy the day-to-day challenges associated with the demands placed on site and being able to resolve them, while the unpredictability of the weather makes things even more exciting.”
There is no question Larnie’s ready for any challenge that comes at her – and she doesn’t let her gender or age stand in the way.
“When starting out as a harvest casual, it was easy to feel intimidated, always being surrounded by guys, but I was lucky to have a great manager who supported and encouraged me to perform all aspects of the job.
“I developed so many different skills I didn’t think possible, including loading trains and driving loaders. Suddenly, it wasn’t about women just working in the sample stands and men in the bunkers, but being open-minded and willing to change things up.
“We’re in an industry where roles are too often defined by gender and the challenge is not to let those roles define ourselves.”Larnie Hobbs
Larnie said she’s learned from her formative years in the industry to be confident in her abilities, ask lots of questions and learn from mistakes.
“It can often be quite challenging being one of the few women in my field and not having many female role models to look up to, but that also really motivates me to keep going, to keep improving.
“GrainCorp has trained me in so many different ways I never thought possible and I’m passionate about encouraging more young women to get involved in what is such an important, diverse and evolving industry.”