Honour for fortunate farming life

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

No one could accuse Audrey Bird of holding back when it comes to promoting agriculture.

Almost from the moment she landed in WA from her native Scotland as a child, Audrey knew she wanted to be involved in agriculture one way or another.

The Wickepin grower has been working the land for more than 30 years, these days farming with husband Peter and their eldest son, Daniel.

Throughout that time, the passionate farmer has been involved in everything from local community groups to the WA No-Till Farming Association (WANTFA) and the Grain and Graze project.

But it is her involvement in her local grower group, Facey Group, which is closest to her heart.

Audrey has been with Facey Group since its inception in 2002 and at the group's recent 10-year anniversary dinner, Audrey became the first person to be given a life membership.

A driving force in the group's transformation from a landcare base to the dynamic research and farming group Facey is today, Audrey said she was honoured and surprised to receive a life membership.

But her tireless involvement in several farming organisations is something she enjoys, relishing the challenge of linking researchers and growers.

"I'm very passionate about what we do on the land and passionate about agriculture," Audrey said.

"I want to see more work done and a better use of funds … and by being involved I believe I have something to offer as far as ensuring there are good outcomes for both the organisation providing the funds and also farmers.

"I enjoy going out and meeting people who are involved in the industry and from personal point of view I get a great deal of satisfaction out of that."

Audrey is keen to point out that farming organisations like Facey Group are not just about research and trials, they're about building community - something important in communities like Wickepin during the recent tough seasons.

"Especially in the last few years that we've been through, after any workshop or event through Facey Group, we always make sure we have that time for a cup of tea or a beer for a bit of a catch-up to discuss the good and bad points," Audrey said.

"It's a sign of the strength in the local community and the awareness that we can combine to form a group to be of an advantage."

Audrey's career on the land has seen many changes, from wheat deregulation to the implementation of precision agronomics, but one of the biggest has been the way the industry perceives women in agriculture.

"Women are a lot more accepted in agriculture now," she said.

"You look back at it and have a laugh but I can still remember bank managers not wanting to talk to me.

"That acceptance is certainly fantastic and there are some very impressive women involved in agriculture."

While she might be humble in admitting it, women like Audrey were trail blazers, proving that women could have a successful career in agriculture, a sector which has traditionally been considered men's domain.

The Wickepin grower has acted as an unofficial mentor to other women in agriculture.

Yealering farmer and Nuffield Scholar Kelly Manton-Pearce said she had been a role model to many in the district.

"Her great passion for her industry flows on to those around her," Dr Manton-Pearce said.

"She is a woman with a can do anything attitude and promotes that women can play an important role on the family farm if they want to."

As for the future, Audrey said industry-wise there needed to be a continual improvement in business management, focusing on inputs.

Closer to home Audrey, Peter and Daniel are keeping an eye out for opportunities in the sector and ensuring costs are kept under control.

"We're looking at increasing our numbers to 1700 mated ewes," Audrey said. "I've got Dorper ewes and I'm mating them twice a year, lambing in March and September."

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails