A southern NSW working agronomist has been welcomed as the first female member of the Henty Machinery Field Days Co-operative in 53 years.
Sheree Hamson, 37, of Culcairn, is the first female non-staff member to join, following on the heels of HMFD chief executive officer Belinda Anderson in 2015.
Sheree and her husband Shaun run a beef and cropping enterprise on Culcairn property, “Kirndeen”, and “Mullemblah”, at Alma Park.
Mrs Hamson immediately received positive feedback from the co-operative members on her involvement, and was impressed by the family-based and inclusive environment.
Sheree and Shaun already had a life-time connection with the field days as visitors.
The couple run 150 commercial South Devon females, finishing steers and cull heifers to 470kg liveweight at 13-14 months of age for over-the-hook sales.
The balance of the enterprise is canola, wheat, dryland lucerne and perennial pastures.
Mrs Hamson grew up on a mixed farm at Lockhart, and was inspired by her father, Lloyd Slocum, to be an agronomist.
“I loved going to the field days as a child as I enjoyed the outdoors and farming. Dad was always interested in seeing what’s happening in the farming world – it was his thing once a year, he would go twice, one day to look and the other to buy,’’ she said.
“It was a great outing to catch up with like minded people.
“As I got older, it was an opportunity to see the DPI variety plots.’’
Growing up in a farming family, Shaun had also spent his younger years making the annual trip to the field days.
Shaun and Sheree married in 2000 and now make the trek with their three young children.
For several years, Mrs Hamson has supported the role Culcairn Public School plays at the field days by providing baked goods to the Hume Bank.
HMFD Co-operative members approached her to gauge her interest in joining.
“Initially I was overwhelmed and felt privileged knowing it had been previously exclusively male,’’ she said.
“It gives me the opportunity to expand my network within the agricultural industry and benefit from positive personal development.
“From my family’s point of view, we have three children really passionate about farming, and they will be able to appreciate and enjoy visiting the Henty field days.’’
Mrs Hamson is excited about volunteering during the field days and hopes to put her specialist knowledge to good use in the agronomy demonstration plots.
She said there were no boundaries when it came to women in agriculture today.
“If you hold your respect and self worth, farmers will give you the same equality back,’’ she said.
“I enjoy working with farmers and felt completed welcomed by co-operative members.’’
Mrs Hamson began her career as a trainee agronomist with Riverina Co-operative, Wagga, in 1999, followed by a position with Landmark Walla Walla.
She completed a graduate diploma to teach agriculture and science, with stints at Billabong and Scots schools.
Mrs Hamson took on her current role at Culcairn Ag N Vet in 2010, consulting on broadacre crops and pastures in the Morven, Henty, Walbundrie, Walla, Burrumbuttock, Gerogery and Bowna districts.
“Most days I spend on the phone or in the paddock with farmers, working with them on farm planning from crop monitoring and soil health to chemical and fertiliser application,’’ she said.
Mrs Hamson also takes a keen interest in livestock nutrition and genetics to ensure the cattle are meeting industry specifications.
“We need to make sure the cattle comply with the carcase traits, fat cover and weight gain the marketing is paying on,’’ she said.
“We both aim to continue to grow our farm business, producing beef and grain.’’
Mrs Hamson said farmers liked to learn from other farmers.
“The field days are a great platform where farmers can not only receive information from experts in the field but also from other farmers,’’ she said.
“Field days will always remain important – they can stay relevant by maintaining the more mature experienced committee members and involving the younger generation to help them understand the technological advancements in agriculture, and what their needs are.
“It is good to see the field days co-operative acknowledging how important women in agriculture are these days and they are keeping up with the times.’’