IT’S now two years since Kylie Stretton first started encouraging consumers with questions about their food and fibre producer to “ask an Aussie farmer”.
The questions are still coming in to the Facebook page – and Kylie still gets a buzz from being able to help them find informed answers from those at the grassroots.
"The live export ban opened my eyes to how little people outside the industry knew,” said Kylie, a cattle producer from Charters Towers, Queensland, whose efforts towards educating consumers were recognised on the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 (WIAA 100) list.
“Social media allowed me to get the facts out there and start to build relationships with the people who wanted to know more.”
Shortly after founding Ask An Aussie Farmer, Kylie said she realised it wasn’t just live export consumers had misconceptions about.
"It was every facet of agriculture - no industry is safe from misconceptions."
Keen to take it further, she recently launched a series of live, online seminars called Cultivating Connections which aim to teach food and fibre producers how to effectively embrace social media and tell positive stories about agriculture.
Kylie said her local community of Charters Towers has been supportive of her efforts with the regional council requesting her as a guest speaker at a meeting.
"I was able to go along to the meeting and let them know what I do and it was just another great opportunity to build relationships and make connections with local businesses to help producers on a grassroots level,” she said.
Kylie's undying devotion for educating outsiders on Australian agriculture will soon see her at the Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women's Conference (September 16-18).
"It's one of the largest gatherings of rural women in Australia and it's aimed specifically at women like me - people who care about rural Australia.
"You don't have to be off a farm, you can be in town and still be passionate about the country and it's a great forum for women looking to connect with others about the things they are interested in - it's a real community."
For all she’s achieved in the past two years – including being a 2012 finalist for the Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women's (QRRRWN) Strong Woman Leadership Award - Kylie says she’s just a ‘normal mum’ and cattle producer.
"That's really all I am, I think anyone can achieve what they want, if they have the passion."
She freely acknowledges her work – combined with being a mum of two and running their property with husband Shane – is “a lot of juggling”.
“And I do drop the ball occasionally but it's a matter of having someone around who can help you,” Kylie said.
“You just have to have the courage to pick them up and keep going when all you want to do is throw them all on the ground and say 'bugger it!'
Kylie believes while the influence of social media has the potential to make or break an industry, it also creates an important forum to share and gain knowledge.
"We are hoping to spread a balanced view of Australian food and fibre production, to help educate and protect our future generations,” she said.
"It's a huge thing to connect with farmers all around the country and it's only going to strengthen us because we can all learn from one another.
"Every person can make a difference, no matter how small and I think if you want change, you need to participate."
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