GAC chairwoman grows the future

Dorothy HendersonThe West Australian
Munglinup farmer and CBH Grower Advisory Council chairwoman Michelle Barrett, with her daughter Eadie, 10, sees a vibrant future in agriculture.
Camera IconMunglinup farmer and CBH Grower Advisory Council chairwoman Michelle Barrett, with her daughter Eadie, 10, sees a vibrant future in agriculture. Credit: no copyright

The ascendency of Munglinup farmer Michelle Barrett to chairwoman of the CBH Grower Advisory Council hardly comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with her record of community service and passion for farming.

Ms Barrett, husband Kieran and daughters Emma, 13, and Eadie, 10, farm 4700ha on Ned’s Corner, near Munglinup, 107km west of Esperance.

Cattle are run on the property and this year’s planned cropping program consists of 4110ha of wheat and canola.

The farm work is carried out alongside commitments that are part and parcel of being a parent and a member of a community, including roles with the local community group, tennis club, St John Ambulance and the South East Premium Wheat Association.

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She said her role with SEPWA was as a member of the Esperance Farm Office Management group, which co-ordinates forums for growers to develop their capacity in this area and share information and tips. But that is not enough to satisfy Ms Barrett’s desire to inspire others to fulfil their potential, and she has taken on some voluntary tasks that she feels are important to ensure the wellbeing of others in the industry — particularly women.

This quest led to her involvement with the RRR Women’s Network Reference Group in 2012, a position she recently relinquished but one she savoured during her tenure.

“During that time, I had the privilege of working with some amazing women from across the State, who all share a passion for their communities and regions and a desire to advocate on their behalf,” she said.

As a graduate in communications from Murdoch University, it seems only natural that her skills in connecting people have led her to involvement in off-farm aspects of the industry. Her continued role on the CBH Grower Advisory Council is another commitment which achieves the goal of encouraging women to look at increasing their involvement in more visual aspects of the industry.

So too is her involvement with The Invisible Farmer Project.

This project is believed to be the largest-ever study of Australian women on the land.

The Australian Research Council-funded project is to be rolled out over three years project (2017-2019) and involves a nation-wide partnership between rural communities, academics, government and cultural organisations.

“Globally, over half of the farmers are female yet they are still not recognised for their efforts,” Ms Barrett said. “I hear people say things like ‘I just do the bookwork’: if they weren’t doing those jobs, their businesses wouldn’t run.”

Ms Barrett is also combining her love of cooking with her desire to strengthen the connections and relationships between food producers and consumers. This aim is being fulfilled via community catering and through her involvement with projects like the Esperance Festival of the Wind’s Taste of Esperance. The Taste of Esperance is a culinary event that involves the tasting of locally produced food and which has become a highlight of the region’s biennial arts festival.

In addition to her desire to see the work of women in agriculture appreciated more, and for people to connect more with the producers of their food, Ms Barrett is also keen to encourage more young people to pursue studies in the field of agriculture.

To this end, she has taken a position on the board of an institution which is trying to tackle this particular issue: the Australian Grain Institute Capacity Building Board.

She said agriculture provided many exciting opportunities for people with a wide range of interests, especially in the streams of science and technology.

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