An advocate for agvocacy

02 May, 2014 02:00 AM
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A lifetime on the land has seen WAFarmers vice president Marg Agnew develop an intense appetite for
I want to shout from the rooftops how exciting agriculture is.
A lifetime on the land has seen WAFarmers vice president Marg Agnew develop an intense appetite for "agvocacy". Photo: WAFarmers

MARG Agnew's love affair with agriculture has been both passionate and enduring.

And it's a lifetime on the land that has seen Marg – a member of the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 - develop an intense appetite for advocacy in the industry.

From wool to grains, rural women's affairs to Landcare, and almost everything in between, her advocacy work in agriculture has been broad and diverse.

Originally a Victorian native, Marg left the family orchard in Shepparton and followed her husband Rob to WA in the pursuit of greener pastures in 1974.

Together they cleared a virgin bush block at Lake Varley.

Two years later, the Agnews relocated to Neridup, located north east of Esperance, and successfully cleared and cropped the site by 1978.

And although the pair made the decision to downsize from their 2000-hectare cropping and livestock enterprise to a lifestyle property after a long and successful farming career last year, Marg's advocacy in agriculture shows no sign of slowing down.

"I can't say goodbye to agriculture," she said.

"I am as heavily involved now as before, maybe more involved, because I have the opportunity to be involved with a number of groups.

"I have always been an advocate and have always believed in the cause.

"I'd like to make a difference."

Marg's pride in agriculture and optimism for the future has seen her represent the industry and rural women on many national, state and regional community groups and committees as well as boards.

She was the first female board member of WA farm lobby group WAFarmers, is the organisation's first junior vice president and is a member of its Leading Ladies committee.

She was recognised for her contribution to WAFarmers when honoured with the WAFarmers President's Award in 2006 and a distinguished service award in 2010.

Marg has contributed to consultative committees at a national level through Australian Wool Innovation and the inaugural Rural Women's Advisory Group.

Perhaps one of her biggest achievements was her founding role in the Rural Remote and Regional (RRR) Women's Network of WA in 1996, a group designed to facilitate information sharing for women and communities in rural, regional and remote WA.

She continued on as the organisation's chair and remained on the RRR reference group for the two years following, and continues to be involved today.

"I am delighted that RRR is being supported by so many young women," she said.

"Women want to be inspired by other women and share issues. I think it is still as relevant today as it was when we started nearly 20 years ago."

Adding to her impressive list of contributions to the industry, Marg was also on the inaugural WA Partners in Grain committee, the Oil Mallee Association, the AWB grains consultative committee as well as several State Government steering committees.

Closer to home at the local level, her passion for natural resources and sustainable farming also saw her contribute to the Landcare movement through her role as past president of the WAFarmers zone and to a number of South Coast NRM committees including her most recent role as the chair of the Esperance Regional Forum.

Over the years she has also been involved in numerous grower groups including the Esperance-based grower group ASheep, the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association, the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Kondinin Group.

Discussing the importance of advocacy in agriculture, Marg said farmers were often individualistic and tended to fix their own problems.

"We should be more collective when we face issues that threaten the industry for groups that are ill-informed or that live far from the farmgate," she said.

"These groups think they know our business and I am continually frustrated by the ignorance of people who have hidden agendas or think they have solutions for farming practices which they know nothing about."

Marg said there had always been challenges in agriculture both on and off farm and the industry would continue to work on solutions.

"Farmers are innovative deep-thinkers and have a 'can-do' attitude, if only the broader community could see how we deal with our daily challenges," she said.

Marg said there was a need for urgency in promoting the innovative and modern aspects of agriculture today.

"Unfortunately we do not have a shop front where we can market how enterprising our farmers are, but I believe with the smart use of social media we can make progress in celebrating and showcasing our valuable industry," she said.

"I look at the progress that is being made in farming and the opportunities, and I want to shout from the rooftops how exciting agriculture is.

"The world is farming's oyster and I am really excited.

"We have the markets - all we have to do is continue to produce quality food."

The Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 is a joint initiative of Emerald Grain and Fairfax Agricultural Media supported by Syngenta.

Read more of our 100’s stories here.

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