Connecting tree changers to farmers is a winning strategy

Sheep Central, March 21, 2018

2018 Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Melissa Connors, left, with Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford.

CONNECTING tree changers to farmers has won Kyneton woman Melissa Connors the 2018 Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

At a ceremony at the Melbourne Museum yesterday, the ‘This farm needs a farmer’ founder and Kyneton local was presented with the prestigious award by Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford.

Mrs Connors is a former Melbourne resident who with her family embraced a tree-change to Kyneton almost six years ago today.

The move proved challenging, but also highlighted to the Connor family that there was a wealth of knowledge among established and retired farmers that was not being passed on to new and less established agricultural professionals.

‘This farm needs a farmer’ aims to create stronger and more engaged farming communities by connecting tree-changers with established and retired farmers who can pass on their invaluable local knowledge to motivated newcomers. The locally-led community network aims to address the issue of an ageing farming industry by linking tree changers on farms, with retired and active farmers, to share existing skills and knowledge.

Mrs Connors and two other finalists, Jade Miles and Cara Hadzig were selected by an independent panel. Mrs Connors will receive a $10,000 bursary to help implement her project.

Cara Hadzig, from Murra Warra, wants to reduce farm work injuries by developing an application that provides farm safety inductions, alerts for maintenance requirements and a platform to log faults and issues around the farm.

Jade Miles, from Stanley, wants to share her learnings from developing a community-owned regional food co-operative and build a social enterprise-based model that can be rolled out in other regions.

Mrs Connors will now attend the Australian Institute of Directors’ Course in Canberra and have an opportunity to become the national award winner, which will be announced in September.

The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award acknowledges the leadership role women play in agriculture and rural communities. The award is supported in Victoria by Agriculture Victoria and is sponsored nationally by AgriFutures, Westpac and ABC Rural.

More information about the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award is available at

Ms Pulford congratulated Melissa Connors and all the finalists, thanking them for their dedication to supporting and developing Victoria’s rural and regional economies.

“Melissa’s project is a timely reminder of the importance of promoting and capturing hand-me-down knowledge within the farming community – and it’s even better to have a woman spearheading it.”

Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas said Mrs Connors’ win is a remarkable achievement and recognition for her and the ‘This farm needs a farmer’ project.

“You have done the people of Kyneton proud and we look forward to watching you battle for the national title,” Ms Thomas said.


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