Farm recharge a focus in cancer fight

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Jo Woodfield.
Camera IconJo Woodfield. Credit: Bohdan Warchomij

The daughter of a retired farmer is preparing WA's peak agricultural lobby group for the biggest shake-up in its 100-year history while locked in the fight of her life with breast cancer.

Jo Woodfield met the board of WAFarmers on Monday to report on her progress and then prepared for her latest round of chemotherapy.

She has had a double mastectomy and lymph nodes removed in recent months, but never faltered in her determination to finish pro bono work worth more than $100,000 for WAFarmers.

Ms Woodfield, one of the principals at national intellectual property firm Wrays, said the commitment to WAFarmers had been a blessing in her battle with cancer.

Wrays is driving a repositioning of the WAFarmers brand, which includes the key issues of relevancy and financial security.

WAFarmers expects the results to be confronting but is committed to a major overhaul of the group, which represents a multibillion-dollar industry yet operates on a shoestring budget of about $2 million a year.

"My attitude has been to just keep powering through it and having a key piece of work like WAFarmers to focus on has been important," Ms Woodfield said.

Another factor has been the support of her father Don, brother Darryl and sister Jenni. Ms Woodfield also has the backing of family friends in Narembeen, where she grew up on a farm.

She is thrilled the farm is back in family hands after Darryl repurchased it this year and returned to the district from Grass Patch.

"I personally wanted to assist WAFarmers on a pro-bono basis, quite aside from my expertise in organisational branding, more so because of my background having watched my father and family struggle for years on the land," said Ms Woodfield, who cut her teeth in the brand industry in London and was Dusk's national brand and marketing manager before joining Wrays.

"We are a very close-knit family. My dad is just the salt of the earth, typical farmer. He is very supportive and still goes back to the farm to help Darryl."

Ms Woodfield is crunching the numbers on the recharge, reconnect project after consulting the board, executives, elected representatives, top bureaucrats and industry leaders.

The next step is a survey of members and non-members in the farming community, with Ms Woodfield set to present findings to the board next month.

The 46-year-old said change would involve some tough decisions from the board about its direction and the member-subscription business model.

"There will be a clear idea for what WAFarmers does and doesn't do in its future operations and how it wants to project its identity," she said.

"Identity is not about logos. For WAFarmers it is about who they are, what do they stand for, what is negotiable and what isn't."

Wrays is working on an identity and culture program for Consolidated Minerals and has a host of other major business clients.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said the group, which is on the hunt for a new chief executive, had to change direction to stay strong and relevant.

"We can't keep doing things the way we have done them for the past 100 years. That is the bottom line," he said.

Ms Woodfield said her cancer prognosis was pretty good and she was thankful she took the precaution of having a double mastectomy.

"It turned out there was a nasty cancer in the one I was having done just to be sure," she said.

"The chemo now is more a precautionary thing and thankfully the cancer is not in my bones or my organs."

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