Women shine in agriculture

8th March 2018 7:00 AM
EXPERIENCED FARMER: Maryann Bender at her and her husband's property 'Burradoo Plains'. EXPERIENCED FARMER: Maryann Bender at her and her husband's property 'Burradoo Plains'. Brooke Duncan

FOR Western Downs women in agriculture, there's plenty to celebrate on International Women's Day.

Business owner and farmer Maryann Bender said she had a background in agriculture growing up in Ingham, and moved to Chinchilla as a graduate accountant with NAB.

"We had a lot of clients who were farmers as well, so I started getting an insight there,” Mrs Bender said.

After marrying her husband Greg, the pair were involved in a family partnership before becoming a bit more independent.

Mrs Bender said their primary agricultural focus was cotton, an industry she says is welcoming for women.

"It's very proactive and has a lot of innovation and really incorporates women in their environment,” Mrs Bender said.

"So with that you get to go to a lot of field days and women's days and they try and include women as much as possible, so you didn't feel like you weren't welcome to attend.

"My knowledge has just grown from that and just keeping the ear to the ground when my husband's talking to people, because sometimes men aren't the best communicators when it comes to direct communication, but you hear a lot, you find out a lot more by just being involved in the business.”

Wandoan cattle producer Jacqui Dann agreed, saying the industry has improved over time, with much less stigma towards women now than during the 1970s and 80s.

"It's fairly welcoming I think, especially even more so now because once the mining boom hit the area it was very hard to get labour and if you did manage to get labour they wanted the big dollars that the mines and the gas were paying,” Mrs Dann said.

"Hence farmers just couldn't afford to pay those rates so a lot of women, wives, partners, girlfriends, have had to go out and help their husbands because you just couldn't get the work.”

For Mrs Bender, the acceptance of women in agriculture is widespread, and essential.

"The grain and the cattle industry... I think they try include the women as much as they can because we definitely are an asset and the business probably wouldn't operate without us either,” she said.

"I think women are just as resilient as men and probably sometimes more understanding when it comes to some hard things as well.

"So if you have a good balance of that in your relationship as a partnership, whether it be marriage or other, I think it helps to make it a bit more profitable and sustainable.”