Ellen Downes and her husband Stuart run a mixed farming enterprise just outside Canowindra. A wife and mother to their three young children, Ellen successfully juggles the farm with her career as a regionally based medical specialist, show enthusiast, and stud dairy cattle breeder.
Ellen’s life was thrown into chaos after the sudden death of her father in 2010, as the family grappled with forced succession. She says the experience made her determined to ensure the next generation of farming families have sound planning, robust business structures and inclusive collaboration processes in place, so theyare spared a similar situation.
To navigate issues and challenges within their own farm business, Ellen and Stuart became involved with AgEDGE – a not-forprofit group made up of farmers and other agribusiness people who meet quarterly to: review the performance of their business, set goals, and discuss current business challenges.
A unique platform AgEDGE helps members to successfully navigate the highs and lows of agriculture. More specifically it helps them understand their business better; get clarity around decision-making; set and achieve goals, both business and personal; and discuss current business challenges. “Being involved with AgEDGE has been invaluable for our business and our relationship.
We were coming to the business from different angles and with vastly different agriculture and life experiences. AgEDGE helped us pick the best of both worlds and combine that into a plan that sets out a future direction for us as a family and from a commercial perspective,” said Ellen.
“We now schedule fortnightly meetings with each other to reconnect with what is going on in the farm and monitor progress towards our goals. It allows us to have a better sense of what is going on in our lives and business and we generally feel less disjointed given everything we juggle,’’ said Ellen.
Ellen says as a woman one of the best things about AgEDGE is the way it includes the partner in the business, especially if the partner is not out in the paddock everyday physically working on the farm.
Through the award Ellen wants to provide the opportunity for people from all over Australia to become members of AgEDGE. In particular, she wants to open the door for women to become more actively involved in the farm business. As part of her award activities she plans to: develop a professional marketing video to explain the AgEDGE concept, in conjunction with the development of webinar and social media opportunities; provide more industry networking opportunities to determine how AgEDGE can continue to meet the needs of farming families into the future.
The NSW/ACT Agrifutures Rural Women’s Award winner will be announced at the Gala Dinner on 19 June at NSW Parliament House. The National finals and National winner will be announced in September in Canberra.