10 Reasons Why You Should Apply For RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

Applications for the 2017 RIRDC Rural Women’s Awards have now opened, and based on what I learned as the 2015 Victorian winner, here’s my top 10 reasons why you should apply (as long as you’re a woman!).

  1. Some cheerful participants at a recent "Facebook for Farmers" workshop
    Some cheerful participants at a “Facebook for Farmers” workshop

    Get help to do an awesome project
    The award is project based, which means the winner is the person with the best idea for a project they want to do, not (as is commonly believed) an award for something you’ve already done. If you’re the kind of person that’s always working on projects anyway, or can easily come up with an idea for a great project that would help your community, the award is a brilliant way of getting a whole lot of support to put it into action! I had an idea for how social media could be used to help connect farmers market stallholders with more customers, and my award gave me a great chance to put it into action. (TIP: Go through the Expression of Interest process as outlined on the RIRDC website to get some early feedback on your project idea.)

  2. Speaking at the AusVeg 'Great Debate' on the Gold Coast
    Speaking at the AusVeg ‘Great Debate’ on the Gold Coast

    Improve your career opportunities
    Whether or not you win the award, even as a finalist you’ll learn new skills and meet new people that can help advance your career. If you’re lucky enough to win, you’ll also probably be asked to attend (and speak at) functions, you’ll get heaps of publicity; meet politicians, bureaucrats and other people in positions of power; learn how the wheels of government turn; and learn how to advocate for your causes – all of which can help you build your career. (TIP: get some advice from a mentor early in the process to help you use the award strategically to meet your career goals.)

  3. Attending the rural women's forum at Parliament House in Melbourne
    Attending the rural women’s forum at Parliament House in Melbourne

    Build personal development
    Leadership training, being asked for your opinion (and being treated as if your opinion matters), increased exposure to other leadership opportunities, and meeting lots of fabulous women role models will all help you build your confidence, your skills, and your sense of self-worth.

  4. The 2015 State Finalists
    The 2015 State Finalists

    Meet (lots) of new people
    This includes the other finalists from your state, winners from other states if you’re lucky enough to win, the awesome team at RIRDC, plus all the great people at the various events you’ll no doubt be invited to… (TIP: Set up a system for keeping track of business cards and making note of why you exchanged cards with someone, and follow up with people straight after an event.)

  5. Hugh and I were able to attend the NASAA National Conference in Canberra
    Hugh and I were able to attend the NASAA National Conference in Canberra

    Get financial support to attend events
    I had the chance to go to loads of events throughout the year in Canberra, Melbourne, and throughout regional Victoria that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have gone to, and every time was flown (when it was too far to drive), wined, dined, accommodated, and otherwise thoroughly spoilt. I had to earn my keep by speaking or otherwise being involved at most of them, but that was part of the value (see #10). Great fun!

  6. Get free AICD training
    As well as the $10,000 bursary (see #8), the award also includes some high-level professional training. I did the Australian Institute of Company Director’s Course to learn how to become a director, which gave me the confidence to become a director on a local community bank board. It’s fabulous training which will also help you become an awesome committee member of every other organisation you’re in, as well as helping you run your own business better (if you’re self-employed). If you don’t want to do the AICD training you can choose alternative professional development.
  7. katie black frock-386x628
    Trying on the posh frock for the national award ceremony

    You can justify treating yourself to a new wardrobe
    Unless you’re already equipped for attending lots of business (and a few formal) events, you’ll probably find yourself having to add to your wardrobe – I sure did! I love that I can now confidently dress for pretty much any occasion (and as an added bonus, finally have some great shoes and decent make-up!).

  8. Get a $10,000 bursary
    The purpose of the bursary is to implement your project (see #1), but you’re welcome to spend it as you see fit (within certain broad guidelines). I was able to spend a chunk of my bursary paying for extra staff on the farm to give me the time to put my project into action, which turned out to be one of the most life-changing aspects of the experience because we realised how cost-effective it is to outsource the pruning. Without the bursary we would never have taken the risk.
  9. You might just have to get more organised
    I have finally conquered my email inbox (I control it rather than it controlling me), and have set up some systems that allow me to get an enormous amount done in my life, without going bonkers. Admittedly I nearly went bonkers along the way from getting completely overwhelmed, but actually that was what forced me to finally have to face up to this ongoing problem, and find some real solutions.
  10. One of many speaking engagements I did during the year
    One of many speaking engagements I did during the year

    Get good at public speaking (or at least get lots of practice)
    For some people, this might be a disincentive for applying for the award, but if that’s you, I’d encourage you to challenge this feeling. As women, we have a much stronger tendency than men to stay safe, stay small, and not be heard, and our patriarchal culture reinforces this all the time. Changing our culture is a daunting task, but we can certainly challenge this within ourselves, one speaking engagement at a time!

Applications close on October 31, which gives you at least

  • 1 day to dither about whether you’re going to apply or not and then decide to do it (because after all, what have you got to lose…);
  • 2 days to talk to the state coordinator about your project idea (here’s the link to find all the details about how to do this, and the application form)
  • 7 days to write your application;
  • 7 days to get me (or someone else you trust) to have a look at your application and give you some feedback about it;
  • 1 day to submit

And that still gives you a couple of weeks up your sleeve if any part of that schedule doesn’t quite go according to plan!

Seriously, I’m very happy to make myself available for chats, looking over applications, or answering questions to make the process of applying as easy as possible.

It’s the chance of a lifetime – just do it!

RIRDC Victorian Rural Women’s Award

My project, called “Farmers Markets Building Communities” was made possible by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Awards.

A new shed arises…

Well, this happened this week – we now have a pretty much finished shed!! hurrah!!

Over the last 3 days, Sas and our friend Sendo (who generously drove down from NSW to help build) have been digging, calculating, drilling – building! See below for a quick pictorial…shed-1 shed-2



We have been able to build this thanks to the donations to our latest crowd funding campaign. It’s gonna be really great to get to put our tools somewhere dry that’s not in Katie’s and Hugh’s car shed, we’ll have a sheltered, dry place for a cuppa in the patch, somewhere we can dry and house seeds, shelves, I could go on!

I helped on the last day measuring and helping do the tin walls, and am amazed at the way in which Sendo and Sas got in there and got the job done. It’s still a bit overwhelming knowing that we are able to do these projects which will help us big time out at the patch thanks to people who believe in us and were able to donate some money, and tin and time!

We also had some visitors out at the patch this week who have been long-time supporters, sharing our space and what we do gives us great pleasure – even though it can feel a bit scary too. But with the next season rolling on, we have our eyes set on tomatoes, sunflowers, resting in the shade of the new shed (its awaiting its name still), and sharing more of what we do out in Harcourt.

Hurray for the flow of movement and different types of work that continue to challenge, suprise and support us. Sas and I are ever grateful that we work hard at something we love and learn from continually and believe deeply in. Thank YOU for supporting us too…gives us a yell if you’d like to come have a cuppa in the shed when we’ve finished this wall!!

Grow well and go gently,

Mel & Sas


A welcome surprise…

The saying goes ‘many hands make light work’ and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to growing food. The last few weeks we’ve been blessed to have a couple of lovely volunteers, Kym and Nicole, helping us out for a few hours a week at the patch. This has been one of the lovely and unforeseen flow-on effects of our crowd funding campaign. More people have come to know about Gung Hoe Growers and what we’re up to here in the granitic hills of Harcourt and very generous offers of time and skills have been popping up in our inbox!


The two lovely volunteers couldn’t have come on board at a better time. As we launch headlong into spring, we’re madly trying to get all our beds ready for the next crop rotations that will fill the rows with a rainbow of spring and summer delights. This means weeding, composting, reforming beds, pulling out spent crops, Gundaroo tilling to loosen the soil deeply without turning it over, digging in the green manures and spraying compost teas. Oh, and don’t forget about all the offsite action in the Hot House sowing the seeds that will fill those rows, Phew!


It’s hard work digging green manures in, but such rewarding work knowing that we are resting our beds and feeding the soil which will be feeding us in turn. As tempting as it is to let the broad beans in the Green Manure rows fruit so that we can pick more glorious beans, the best time to dig the Green Manures in is when about 10% of the plants are flowering. You’ve got to try and catch them before they go to seed because seed production takes up a lot of the plant’s energy and the wonderful nutrients that were stored in their cells goes into the seeds (rather than back into the soil in a form that the next crop can take up). Clever aren’t they? Another great thing about using green manures is that because you plant them so densely the weeds don’t get a look in so it helps break one weedy life cycle!


With the few warmer days that we’ve started to have, some of our winter crops like kale and salads are starting to freak out and go to seed. A little earlier than we would have liked, but really, there’s no telling them! Winter has been a welcomed slowing of pace from summer’s fruity madness, and it has gone so quickly. Now we’re starting to rev up our cold little engines to get going for the beginning of the spring and summer abundance. Tally Hoe and onwards, broom broom, toot toot….

Sas and Mel