This month has been a big one for those in our team working on the Regional Drought Resilience Planning Project! Friend of NACC NRM, Rachel Mason, has been out in the region speaking with farmers about their experiences with drought and drought recovery. So who better to get to know for #PeopleOfNRM?
How long have you been involved in sustainable agriculture?
For around four years now! I completed my degree in Agriculture Business Management at Muresk, and moved up to Mingenew to work as a Project Officer for the Mingenew Irwin Group. During my time at MIG I handle a wide range of projects including Dung beetle monitoring and education, feral pest control, revegetation projects, and whatever else came my way.
What made you want to get into your role?
I grew up on a hobby farm and tried a few jobs working in the city. But realised that I did not want to spend the rest of my days chained to a desk in the city. I always loved agriculture and the environment. I was one of those kids who spent all her time outside catching bugs and tadpoles, and getting very grubby while doing so. During my degree, I took part in a unit all about extensions and how research is extended in agriculture. It appealed to me as I would constantly be learning new things while helping others make positive changes to their business and their surrounding environment.
Where is home for you?
I grew up on a 46 ha hobby farm in the swamplands of Serpentine. It wasn’t until I left that I realised it wasn’t normal for paddocks to be underwater all winter! We were one of the few people in Serpentine who didn’t have horses, but we did have sheep. I’ve spent the last four years in Mingenew, where I still currently reside.
What is your role in the Regional Drought Resilience Plan?
I’ve been tasked with the role of getting feedback from farmers on their experiences with drought. I’m hoping to speak to 60 farmers in the Shires of Northampton, Shire of Greater Geraldton, and the Shires of Chapman Valley. I’m halfway through the surveys and it has been a very educational experience so far!
What have been some highlights of your career in agriculture?
Getting the nickname as ‘The Bug Lady’ or ‘Dung Beetle Lady’ in my community. I find the environment, especially the insect world very fascinating. My enthusiasm clearly comes across when I present on or talk about these topics. So, after doing a few classes with the local school kids and presentations at some MIG events, I got the nickname. The best thing about it is people come to me with their weird bug finds or ask me bug-related questions. I love a good mystery to solve, and it means I learn even more!
What do you love about the region you work in?
Definitely the people. As someone who didn’t grow up in a farming business, and who still has a lot to learn, it’s incredibly encouraging to be surrounded by people who are so generous with their time. From explaining farming practices to lending a hand. I moved up to this district knowing no one, and instantly felt a part of this community. I find everyone in this region is incredibly generous with their time and wisdom. It makes me very proud of this region and industry.
What is something you’d like to see come to fruition within your field of work?
For people to ask more questions, have an open mind, and listen more often. After working in the research and extension space I realised there is a massive disconnect between those who are farming and those who work in research and extension. There is a lot of people who tell farmers what they need or believe they know but very few are listening to what farmers have to say. In my vision for the future, there would be a stronger connection between researchers, universities, industry bodies, and the farming community. Enabling future researchers and university graduates to be learning off those with experiences in the industry.
What would be your message to people looking to learn more about sustainable agriculture?
Learn from the experts around you. A lot of people hold a wealth of knowledge and are happy to impart this knowledge. So go join a local group or community and meet some local experts and keep the local knowledge alive. Every patch of land is different so learn from others’ past mistakes and observations and build off the knowledge that already exists.