What Does a Farmer Look Like?

Host: Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association
Written by Kim Storey

Save the date for the 2018 Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association Federal Conference to be held in Canberra, August 1-2. This promises to be a great conference! Find all information at this link: https://www.icpaconferenceaust.com/  #ICPAconf18

Back in 2016, I was in a conversation with some people on twitter about the perception of women in agriculture, which then turned to a discussion about the perception of farmers in general. The direction of the conversation sent me to google to look up the top images of farmers in that search engine, so I typed in “What Does A Farmer Look Like?”

The images that came up were almost exclusively older men, wearing bib & brace overalls, carrying a pitchfork or chewing straw and several of them were portrayed as a dumbed down hillbilly. It was disappointing but somehow not surprising!

As a photographer I had wanted to put together a coffee table book for a long time but wanted it to be more than just beautiful photos, here was an opportunity to combine my love for photography with a need to change the perception of farmers in the wider community. The What Does A Farmer Look Like? project was born!

Over the next 12 months I travelled the country photographing and chatting to farmers in all sorts of different industries, from cattle and sheep to olives, oysters and fruit, I wanted to cover as many different producers as possible. This has meant that over 100 farmers are featured in the book with their photos and a little of what they told me while we were chatting.

The Butler family at home on their property at Lightning Ridge.

The whole aim of this project is to show people who have no contact with a farmer or have never had the chance to visit a farm, exactly who our modern Aussie farmers are and what we do. While I’ve grown up with sheep and cattle, I have had the chance to visit farms producing food that I had no prior knowledge of like oysters, tropical fruits, strawberries and yabbies just to name a few. It’s been amazing to have the chance to visit these places and people to learn a little more about what it takes to produce the high quality of food that our farmers do.

Cassie Melrose with some of their oysters at their Melshell Oysters farm gate shop in Tasmania.

I also got to learn about the challenges each different farm deals with, for some, one of those challenges is isolation. While visiting a couple of remote stations for the book project, the Western Australian government announced that they were going to close School of the Air in their state.

When I arrived at Curtin Springs in Central Australia and met the Severin family, we got chatting and School Of The Air came up, they hadn’t heard about the WA announcement and their reaction when I mentioned it was one of shock and disappointment but also immediately one of “right, what are we going to do about this”.

Emma in the school room at Curtin Springs.

Emma taking a break at the school room at Curtin Springs.

Even though the WA announcement didn’t directly affect these stations, the families there were ready to help fight the closure. They knew just how important School of the Air is to their kids and all the other kids living on stations right across Australia.

I watched the campaign on social media being driven by the Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association (ICPA) and lots of the people affected by the announced closures. It was clear that the decision makers in government had little to no understanding of the amazing service School of the Air provides isolated kids, however the social media campaign and rallies organised across WA soon changed that. After a month or so of hard campaigning, some of the cuts to rural education in WA were reversed but not all. The fight is still on to save the Moora College, Landsdale Farm, some of the camp schools and other cuts being made.

The fight for rural education in WA has shown just how much our farmers will fight to keep essential services for their kids and their communities (sorry to all the graziers and station owners who are cringing at the term “farmer” right now!). When challenges come up, farmers and farming communities really do come together to support each other and overcome those challenges. It’s an amazing community to be a part of and something that I hope to share through the What Does A Farmer Look Like? book.

The book can be purchased through the website www.whatdoesafarmerlooklike.com and will be arriving here in August. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Working in the cattle yards at Goodwood Station, Boulia Queensland.

Gillian and two of her kids, Alan & Eleanor at Lambina Station in South Australia.