Agricultural society appoints councillors

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian
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Two inspirational WA women have been appointed as councillors to the Royal Agricultural Society.

Jennacubbine farmer and Women In Agriculture advocate Catherine Bowen, and Wooroloo farmer and educator Beth McDonnell, were both recently appointed to the council and bring years of experience and passion for the agricultural industry to the positions.

Dr Bowen, who has a PhD in small business succession issues, was a founding member of the WA chapter of Australian Women in Agriculture and also involved in the formation of the RRR Women's Network.

Mrs McDonnell, who is the sole manager of the family farm at Wooroloo, is passionate about bringing the values and economic successes of the agricultural industry to people living in the city.

For Dr Bowen, working full-time off-farm, plus being intricately involved in the farm business, allowed her to see the many and varied challenges facing rural women.

She said growing up on a orchard and beef property in Manjimup was a world away from the new ground farming she and her husband took on in the Newdegate district in the late 1980s.

"Yes, that was before we even had power out there, my husband and his brothers had to clear all that land," Dr Bowen said.

Dr Bowen and her husband Joe then moved to the family's home property at Jennacubiine, which they still farm today.

"I've been actively involved in the farm, and in those early days, women were less involved in the manual labour side of things," she said.

"On the farm where I grew up, my father didn't distinguish between boys and girls in terms of hard work, and my mother was the same, it never occurred to her not to be involved."

Dr Bowen said she believed in constantly pushing the boundaries and challenging herself, which is why she was passionately involved in the establishment of the WA Chapter of Australian Women in Agriculture.

"For so many farms, women run the books, and are dealing with million of dollars in turnover. This organisation wasn't mean to be a feminist movement, it was more about the recognition of a woman's involvement in a farming business," she said.

In her role with the RAS, Dr Bowen said she hoped to see agriculture become part of the broader education system.

"I have strong links with education and I believe children need to be taught about agriculture, and the industry needs to be part of the general curriculum," she said.

For farm finance educator Mrs McDonnell, growing up on a farming property, and then farming just south of Kellerberrin for many years with her husband, agricultural shows were a way of life.

Mrs McDonnell and her husband moved to Wooroloo in 2003 and she now produces oaten hay and fat lambs for the domestic market.

She believed the Perth Royal Show was a opportunity to showcase agriculture to the broader community and encourage understanding of the processes and practices of the industry, she said.

"We have to get back to basics as far as food is concerned," she said.

Mrs McDonnell said Australia's obesity problems could be managed better though the education and participation of young people in the food producing chain.

"We have to get to our teenagers more involved in the farm to food projects, and we need to better understand nutrition, and all the aspects of what goes on our dinner plate," she said.

Mrs McDonnell has spent many years lecturing in farm finance administration at TAFE, teaching farmers how to manage the farm books and use agricultural related software.

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