“Every job is a self portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence” ~ author unknown
Welcome to my new series, Bush Lanterns, highlighting women in the rural and agriculture sector! There are so many amazing and wonderful women who don’t always get recognised for what they do and I feel it’s my job to be able to bring them to you.
Every Tuesday I’ll introduce you to a Bush Lantern – if you like this series, please share the blogs and let’s get some serious momentum behind them so more and more people can read about these inspiring and motivated women.
If you have a woman you think is perfect for this series, then please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to showcase them!
I’d now like to introduce you to HELEN ROTH!
- Tell us a little about yourself, family and work?
Proston is a slightly more than ‘1 horse town’ in rural Queensland. It is nestled in the South Burnett region and I have a beef cattle property about a 45km drive out from the town on the banks of the Boyne River. My name is Helen Roth and I have lived here on this property since 2005 when a major shift in life thankfully landed me right here. I have two adult children, a son who conveniently is a contract musterer and assists me to manage my property at the moment and a daughter who has a career as a mining engineer. I feel at times I am a bit of an imposter grazier as I was a citrus orchardist for many years prior to this, only coming into the cattle industry completely at the age of 35. It turned out to be a steep learning curve that I have thoroughly enjoyed. In 2012 due to a divorce I ended up with just this property to manage on my own which promoted a whole new shift in thinking and ways of working. Physically it was reasonably difficult but manageable. The hardest part was the mental challenge. Isolation in rural life can be a fierce enemy if you allow it to be. It took a while to get on top of that side of it. But I eventually managed to and now for the most part, embrace the life I have out here.
I predominantly breed calves to sell as weaners but like to describe what I do as ‘grass farming’ as essentially that is what we do. I harvest a crop of beef from managing and growing grass, both native and introduced pastures. As a bonus I get to live surrounded by cows and calves, lots of boisterous working dogs and Mother Nature at her challenging but glorious best.
- What is your greatest achievement?
What is your greatest achievement is the hardest question to answer.
Personally I think raising my two children whilst working constantly is probably my greatest personal achievement. It is quite possibly the most challenging, thankless task but definitely the most rewarding. Unfortunately Motherhood doesn’t come with a foolproof guide. But it definitely ranks as one of the greatest achievements. I never had huge aspirations to be rich or famous but I always had a deep abiding desire to have children and be a good Mother. Hopefully I did an okay job on that even though it meant dragging them all around the farms with me 24/7. They definitely learnt what hard work was at a very early age.
- How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you?
I was married quite young and my former husbands’ family owned a citrus orchard.
I can honestly say without an early financial leg up from his parents to start our own farm, combined with lots of advice and confidence in us, along with a couple years of solid babysitting from my incredibly supportive mother in law in the early days. I don’t think I would be sitting where I am today.
I am an avid reader so that helped with the learning process of everything I have done in my life. If I didn’t know how to do something I would find a book about it and learn how. These days of course Google is my portable manual on everything!
I truly believe your own work ethic and confidence in yourself is a key to surviving in any business and I think I can contribute a lot of that part of me to my own hardworking parents. My Dad in particular instilled in me the belief that you could do anything you put your mind to regardless of your gender or where you had come from to start with. I started out as an apprentice butcher at the age of fifteen, an unusual and challenging occupation for a girl back in 1985 but I loved it. I still butcher my own meat today and find it interesting and a bit of fun creating different batches of homemade sausages for friends and family to try. So I’ve come a bit full circle, just that the beef is mostly still on the hoof in this job.
A few years ago at a crucial time for me I was also sponsored to participate in a rural leadership program called the South Burnett Community Leadership Program. At that time it was a valuable aid in helping me understand myself and other people better. It helped me work more effectively and confidently in my own business and in the community. It had a great settling affect at a time when I was struggling to juggle everything I had on my plate. Teaching me how to prioritize and plan more effectively was the most useful tool I gained out of the program and I now have a far greater network of friends and associates that have given me much support and advice over the past couple of years.
- You are an effective female leader. What drives you?
I am driven by a strong belief in what I do. Agriculture was the foundation and backbone of our country and continues to be one of the most important contributors to our nation’s wealth.
I believe food security should be the number one priority for any country and am fiercely proud of our farmers and the amazing job they do. I love to share on social media much of my daily life, hopefully mostly with a wry humour but also with an underlying goal to educate people who just do not understand how food arrives on their table. I am driven to see a shift in the attitude and understanding of farming and rural life in Australia in my lifetime. I really hope I get to see that shift happen.
- Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
I love feeding the chooks and wearing nice dresses! Not necessarily in that order and not usually at the same time. Well that’s two things. So maybe I should combine them??
- What would be your advice to younger women who are trying to achieve great things in rural areas?
Work hard but also work smart. Keep up with what is happening around you. You don’t have to attend every meeting, workshop etc. but you can always find out what is happening by staying in contact with others who do get to attend. Sharing information is crucial to learning and improving. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help and support. Isolation can be your biggest hurdle but there are plenty of ways around it. Learn not to focus on the problems as that can overwhelm you.
Put all of your energy into searching for the solutions.
Finally be proud and own what you do. When people ask you what you do?
I’ve finally learnt not to say – Oh I’m ‘just’ a farmer. Tell them – I am a farmer.
Facebook, Linkedin – Helen Roth
Instagram – cowfarmher