Bronwyn Ryan, a farmer in Boulois, says women make things happen. So when she was approached about chairing the Harden/Boulois chapter of the New South Wales Farmers Association, the state’s premier local body, she didn’t have to think too long about it.
Most of her thinking time was spent on which women to ask to join with.
“We never decided not to let men on board,” she said.
Bronwyn is currently Chair of the Chapter Executives for the Hilltops district of New South Wales, near Canberra, along with fellow Chapter members Elke Cleverdon (Vice-Chair), Nikki Barton Taylor (Vice-Chair) and Christie Doe. Mestre (Treasurer), Wendy Bowman (Secretary).
Among them, women boast the most diverse skills. Agribusiness Management, Livestock/Grazing Management, Music (Bronwyn). Accountant, Company Director, Banking, Agriculture, Counseling, Finance and Succession Planning (Elke). Law – specifically Risk and Corporate Governance, Agricultural Exports, Education, Financial Services, Agribusiness (Nikki). Agribusiness, land crops, merino and fat lamb, fashion and textiles (Christie). Mixed Farming, Health and Human Resources, Injury Management, Workplace Safety, Counseling, and Conflict Resolution (Wendy).
“All these women have different skills to bring to the party,” said Bronwyn. “You don’t have to agree on everything on policy issues. In fact, it’s better to have different perspectives.”
Most of the women were not born on the land and started farming through their partners, but now their passion for farming knows no bounds.
“I’m Ringuin. I’ve only been a farmer for 24 years,” joked Bronwyn. Adelaide native Bronwyn said she got her first taste of country life when she moved with her husband Matthew to Dalby, Queensland after her marriage. “It was a bit of a culture shock,” she said. “You learn not to say the wrong thing, not to offend people.
“I joined the Arts Council early on and met people, and then I started teaching piano, so I got to know a lot of people through that.”
But after her two daughters, Jessica and Annabel, started boarding school, she started working hard on the farm.
“Before that, I was helping Matthew. But then I learned how to drive a truck, a tractor and a header. I have taken many courses to learn how to monitor pastures.”
Then and now, she turned down only one job. But it’s okay. Her daughters, who have driven farm machinery since her legs were long enough to reach the pedals, happily oblige.
Bronwyn said she was thrilled that her daughters wanted to stay on the land, but was fully aware that farm families weren’t always like that.
“Our girls don’t know other lives,” she said. “Jessica always wanted to go back to the farm. She never strayed from it. She’s all about running an empire,” joked Bronwyn. .
“I am proud to pave the way for my daughters to pursue farming careers.”
Bronwyn said of all the time she spent on land, it was during the drought that she learned the most. “Drought really teaches us a lot,” she said. “You learn a lot about animals when you hand-feed them all the time.”
It was also the perfect time for farmers to look out for each other, she said.
“One of the things I am really passionate about is farm safety and mental health. As women, we are focused on doing something for our communities. We fund several First Aid courses, the idea is to hold safety workshops where we can bring people together and show them they are not alone.
“Mental health can affect so many things and it underlies everything we do. You don’t have to be a counselor, all you need is a network where you can take care of each other.
NSW Farmers welcomes new members. See website for details.