WAFarmers welcomes youth injection

WAFarmers welcomes youth injection


Agribusiness
WAFarmers' newest and youngest director, Jessie Davis, pictured with her father Murray Dixon on farm where they have begun this season's cropping program.

WAFarmers' newest and youngest director, Jessie Davis, pictured with her father Murray Dixon on farm where they have begun this season's cropping program.

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AS a tertiary-educated farmer aged less than 30, Jessie Davis, Narembeen, is the sort of person a revamped WAFarmers is seeking to attract to its membership.

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AS a tertiary-educated farmer aged less than 30, Jessie Davis, Narembeen, is the sort of person a revamped WAFarmers is seeking to attract to its membership.

So recently the WAFarmers' board voted Ms Davis, 28, on board as a director to fill a casual vacancy left by the departure of Lyn Slade.

Ms Davis - she is 20 years younger than president Rhys Turton who at 48 is the next youngest person on the board - will be a director until an election at next year's annual general meeting.

"I'm the sort of 'target audience' WAFarmers is aiming to reach with its restructure and with where it wants to go into the future and I've been invited to join the board to provide some insights into how that might be accomplished," Ms Davis said on Monday.

"It's not just WAFarmers, any organisation that is not engaging with young people coming through in their particular industry is really missing out on the initiatives and the renewal that they bring," she said.

"It's surprising how many rural women in particular are tertiary educated and have a degree these days, so rural organisations who want to represent the sector need to reflect that."

While an active member in WAFarmers' Merredin zone and of its livestock council, Ms Davis admitted she still had "a lot to learn" about the running of WA's premier farmer representative organisation which is going through a turbulent period, with membership down to 1150 and two more of its staff resigning in the past fortnight.

Ms Davis has been farming with her parents Murray and Vicki Dixon north east of Narembeen for five years.

She completed a Bachelor of Agribusiness degree at Muresk Institute and worked in a sales and support role for farm management software company Agworld and then Katanning Shire, before returning to the farm.

Her husband Trent is a commercial plumber whose business takes him all over the State.

A keen horsewoman, Ms Davis competes on the State's show jumping circuit with two young horses she is training up for the senior ring.

Although supposedly 'retired' from netball, she also still plays for Narembeen on occasion.

"Trent plays football for Narembeen so when I go with him I throw my (netball) uniform in the car just in case and usually end up playing - sometimes three games on a Saturday," Ms Davis said.

"It's a great way of staying in touch with the local community."

Ms Davis and her father began their 2700 hectare cropping program for the season on April 10, dry seeding a winter wheat crop.

She plans to start sowing fodder crops this week, followed by canola next week if there are decent follow up to the 40 millimetres of rain over the past fortnight.

"If we don't get a good rain we'll probably move straight on to (sowing) wheat and barley and give the canola a miss," Ms Davis said.

They also run a total of 1500 Merino ewes and Suffolks.

"We've just finished lambing and it's looking really good," she said.

Ms Turton spoke highly of the skills Mr Davis will offer the WAFarmers' board where she will be the only women at a table of men, with a spread of ages from late 40s to 74.

"Jessie is exactly the person we need on the board as we drive change in the business, both philosophically and structurally," Mr Turton said.

"Jessie brings gender diversity to our board and as a younger director will bring a youthful perspective and drive to WAFarmers.

"I've been watching her progress for some time and I've seen her speak at meetings and I've been impressed.

"Her generation is what we are aiming to attract as future members," he said.

As previously reported, Mr Turton, a York mixed grains, hay and sheep farmer who is believed to be the youngest WAFarmers president ever, was elected last month for a two-year term to replace Tony York who stood down a year early into his second term to join the National Farmers' Federation.

Kojonup sheep producer and WoolProducers Australia board member Steve McGuire, who is a similar age to Mr Turton, was elected as vice president.

In January, Trevor Whittington was appointed as the organisation's sixth chief executive officer in a little over five years.

In recent months staff numbers have been reduced to six, but two weeks ago dairy and livestock executive officer Kim Hayward resigned for personal reasons and last week communications officer Shannen Barrett resigned to further her career.

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