A team of inspiring female leaders at one of South Australia’s most reputable organic farms is setting the pace for gender equality in South Australia’s agriculture sector and has used International Day of Rural Women to encourage others to take a leap of faith and consider forging a career in the sector.
South Australia’s primary industries and agribusiness sector is a vital part of the economy, supporting more than 70,000 jobs across the state. While the broader agriculture sector has historically been led by men, the leadership team at Eldridge Fresh Organics at Murray Bridge in South Australia is now on the verge of an equal gender split.
Fourth-generation farmer and Business Support Manager Chelsea Eldridge enjoyed a hands-on role in the successful local business while she was growing up and started working full time at Eldridge Fresh Organics after leaving school in 2019.
“I’ve grown up eating organic produce and it’s something I am passionate about, so when the opportunity came up to work in the family business, I jumped at it because I love being part of a growing industry and helping people understand why organic produce is the best,” Chelsea says.
New and different perspectives
“I think International Day of Rural Women is an opportunity to acknowledge how women bring new and different perspectives to the organic industry and broader sector. My experience has shown that organic farmers and sellers have been mostly men, and it would be great to see women of all ages and cultural backgrounds also become part of the industry and fulfill their own career dreams,” she says.
Production manager Sandtina Martin has been with the business for four years after spending more than a decade as a chef before a career change took her to the coal face of organic food production.
“I love working in the sector and I find it incredibly satisfying to know where our food comes from. It’s also the perfect career to challenge myself each and every day and break down the stereotypes of what roles women should do – and while a few eyebrows might have been raised when I first started driving trucks and forklifts it’s now accepted as the norm,” Sandtina says.
Employee Jess McCulloch has quickly risen through the ranks after starting her first job at Eldridge in 2018 as a picker and packer. The Production Supervisor now manages staff that originally trained her.
“When it comes to having a career I believe women should do what they love – and I can honestly say that I love my job and the diversity it offers. It’s a resilient industry where you keep learning new things,” Jess says.
“If I’m honest, my experience has shown me that women seem to have a better attention to detail than the guys, we tend to take more care, and are more likely to notice the need for finishing touches on the packing lines.” International Day of Rural Women on 15 October 2021 celebrates the vital role played by rural women in climate action with a particular focus this year on “Rural women and girls building resilience”.
The members of the Eldridge Fresh Organics team join thousands of other women working at the front line of agriculture, food security and nutrition, land, and managing natural resource management across Australia. Globally, as many as one in three employed women work in agriculture.
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