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Byron Shire
March 23, 2023

Leading women of the farming sector

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Just some of the female farmers from Byron Farmers Market: (from left to right) Georgia Powell, Michelle Clarke, Debra Allard, Belinda Fortune and Brianna Atkin.

In recognition of International Women’s Day last week, the Byron Farmers Market are shining the light on some of our local women farmers who are carving out a niche in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Belinda Fortune, farmer and president of Byron Farmers Market, says that while women still have a long way to go in the agricultural industry, things are changing, particularly on the local scene.

‘Women haven’t had a great history in farming,’ Belinda says. ‘We were only legally recognised as farmers in 1994, but it has definitely changed since then and is something that’s ever-evolving.‘

‘There’s a growing number of women getting involved in small-scale farming, which is great to see. On our farm alone, most of the employees are women.’

Today, women make up 32 per cent of Australia’s agricultural workforce, and the number is increasing.

Belinda believes the detail-oriented work of small-scale farming appeals to women: ‘I think it’s something women enjoy and are good at – the attention to detail. The male roles tend to lean more towards driving the tractor and using the farm machinery, all the ‘toys’. Not that we don’t like the toys as well, but we enjoy getting our hands in the soil and the finer detail’.

‘Also, the nurturing side of women naturally lends itself to farming. We enjoy watching things grow, and feeding people, and it offers a really strong connection to community.’

Belinda says the Northern Rivers region is unique in terms of opportunities for young women wanting to enter farming.

‘We are lucky in this area to have places like Conscious Ground and The Farm offering access to, and education about, farming, where women – and men – who are interested can have a go and see what it’s all about and get a start in agriculture.’

And at Byron Farmers Market alone, the female farming presence is strong with both the president and vice president roles being held by women, as well as half the founding members, bucking the national trend.

‘Women are definitely starting to balance out the agriculture sector,’ Belinda says. ‘We have something great to offer the industry and I think the female presence will continue to grow.’

Byron Farmers Market is held every Thursday 7–11am at Butler Street Reserve and Bangalow Farmers Market is every Saturday morning 7–11am behind the Bangalow Pub. 

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