Introducing Elizabeth Brennan. Elizabeth and her family farm on properties between Wongan Hills and Moora in the WA Wheatbelt. Elizabeth’s story is number 19 in our quest to feature 52 farming stories in 52 weeks.
1. Summary of your family and farming enterprise
I remember thinking as a young tacker the only thing I would change about my life on the farm was the driveway that seemed infinitely long walking back to the house after school on those scorching WA summer afternoons. But, looking back now, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to walk up that driveway come scorching sun or otherwise.
Introducing myself as a pig farmer’s daughter has always been a point of passion and pride for me and conversation leading from that is always rather welcomingly colourful. Most people are taken aback when I explain that yes, I can tell you protein levels of wheat by chewing on it and when a sow rejects her AI into your boot, you certainly know about it. Unknowingly, it has been my drive to challenge the stereotypes and create excitement about farming that has lead me back to a career in agriculture.
Our family now farms cereals, pigs and citrus in the WA Wheatbelt on properties between Wongan Hills and Moora, about 200km in a north-easterly direction from Perth. And whilst I have been involved with the farming operations on and off over the years, 2012 marks the Australian Year of the Farmer and I am traversing the countryside as part of the roadshow to celebrate agriculture and its impact and importance in our everyday lives.
Passionate about telling our story and sharing what it is that takes me back up that dusty driveway has also serendipitously led me to cross paths with some of the most courageous characters and wonderful souls advocating for our industry. Recognising the collaborative power of connecting with others has seen the growth of Influential Women. Celebrating the roles regional women play as vital communicators, Catherine Marriott (2012 WA RIRDC Rural Woman of the Year) and I have fused our enthusiasm and yearning to facilitate training programs empowering regional women to influence positive ripples through their own communities and the whole industry.
2. For you, what is the best lifestyle factor that you enjoy as a farmer?
There is a peace and connection that you can’t find anywhere else except in the middle of a paddock. Standing there surrounded by burgeoning heads of wheat, you can’t help but wonder what plate that tiny grain of nourishment will end up on. Knowing that what you get out of bed for in the morning could one day end up in the toaster across the other side of the country or in a noodle bowl across the other side of the world, is quite a profound ‘food for thought’.
Producing food is a humbling profession when you think about the impact you have on people’s lives. The circles you seed and harvest across the agricultural landscape yields much further than the horizon you look to, and your grassroots connections extend beyond the soil profile you stand upon.
3. What do you foresee as your biggest short term and long term challenges in farming?
Not dissimilar to many industries across the globe, the agricultural industry needs to collaborate. We need to proactively connect with others in our community, both locally in the regions and with our consumers down the track. This will aid us in forming a vision for where we want our industry to be in the future. By networking, connecting and sharing our stories we can not only communicate the AWEsomeness of agriculture, but we can discover new innovations and cultivate our sustainability with greater yields and more wisely utilized resources.
Being on the road with Australian Year of the Farmer, I have spun some great yarns with people that are the remarkable essence of our country. One story that has stuck with me and even formed a bit of a personal challenge was from a retired dairy farmer just outside of Tatura in northern Victoria. He said getting farmers together is like ‘trying to herd cats’. Although it is the varietal multitude of farmers that creates such an amazing industry, I would love us to at least be pouncing on the same vision and advocating for a stronger, more connected future.
We are the change champions for our industry. Recognising that to have our consumers and our government understand our industry, we must understand and connect with them.
4. What do you wish non-farmers / city people & the Australian Government understood about farming. What message would you like to put on a billboard in Collins Street?
Just as I find it quite profound the story behind a grain of wheat, I would love to have everyone share my appreciation and awe. Being acknowledged and understood is inherent to all and I challenge those, as I challenge myself, to understand and connect with the passion that goes into taking that grain of wheat and turning it into something much more – food.
Connect with others. Share your story. You never know where your ripples of influence will lead to, but knowing that the seed you planted may nourish others beyond the belly, is the most powerful and profound food of all.
Food for thought – thought for food!