Katrina Sasse

The Way Forward for Daughters in Family Farm Business

Where I call home, thousands of hectares roll into one giant family farm. Our little farming community of Morawa has a small population of 750 which has been in gradual decline over the decades. Our farm is 50km north of town and a four-and-a-half-hour drive from the city. Some may ask why I want to live so remotely, however I remain quite optimistic about the future of our farm and our community.

In my lifetime, I have seen massive changes to the way we farm. When you look at it, we are now on the brink of one of the most fascinating eras of modern technology and there are so many opportunities for young women who come back to their family business.

I grew up on the farm with two sisters, and now help manage the operations with my parents. My main jobs are seeding and harvesting our 6500 hectare winter wheat, canola and lupin crop and I assist with other jobs such as spraying, maintaining the property, burning for harvest weed seed control, fire breaking, grading and rock picking. Our property sits at the edge of the outback and that is precisely what I love about the farm – it is remote. My entire family share the same passion for the rugged Australian landscapes and appreciate watching our land adapt as the seasons change.

The trend in farm size becoming larger is because we have needed to scale to make a profit and stay globally competitive. The profitability of farming in the semi-arid zone does not excite many people, we have lost a lot of families and businesses to the city because of it. But the ones who are still here I presume are here for the long haul provided we get our succession plans right. Recently there has been new interest from corporates and carbon traders – which I find interesting.

Katrina Sasse
Katrina Sasse
Katrina Sasse,
Daughter and Farm Manager, Leichhardt Fields Pty Ltd – family owned and managed cereal and oilseed cropping enterprise in south-Western Australia.

Back when I was at high school, it was never expected that my sisters and I would return home to farm, but as it turned out, one sister and I are keen. I would say we are still an anomaly in our town but that will begin to change. I think parenting is different, as gender barriers have fallen. I think parents are instilling a level of confidence. Daughters are seeing and creating opportunities to farm and are not afraid to give it a go. Farming has also become a rather topical profession in the media, and there are plenty of role models helping to shift daughters’ perspectives on farming. New opportunities for diversification, integration and tapping into niche markets will be the future. The good thing is, daughters aren’t walking onto the property with pre-conceived ideas of what and how things should be done, rather they are learning from scratch and bringing a completely fresh way of looking at things.

Even though our little community populations are falling, there are employment opportunities for young professional women to be realised in far remote areas, especially those who are business minded and can work online in positions like finance, management, marketing and sales. Many ladies who live in rural Australia want to combine having a family and farming with ability to work in a mobile work environment. I believe this will be very important for regional growth. I would personally love women to get behind new technologies such as data management, artificial intelligence and precision agriculture. Women have an eye for detail, are very thorough and will ensure we minimise mistakes in risky situations. Many women already help manage the book keeping and are computer savvy, so why not assist in the transfer to the technology and software that will allow our farm equipment to make the decisions and start doing the work by itself?

Woman to woman dialogue is very important and a powerful tool for developing the solutions on how to deal with complex issues. Already, rural women are helping to instigate some very amazing projects in our community and communicating the farmer story for better cohesion with the end consumer. Yet there are women who are completely remote, with fantastic ideas and new solutions but their voices aren’t being heard. We need to find a way to raise their voice through the internet, and reap the rewards of our virtual network.

Being close to family and lifestyle are the main drivers why I continue to live two hours away from the nearest coffee shop and 400km away from the city. Just recently I returned from a global study tour, called a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, that took me to 12 countries. I am studying best practice in succession for women like myself (daughters) and how to continue to thrive in a family farm enterprise. Not many people are aware that it has been a complex process for daughters to return to the family farm, but those days are nearly over, and the exciting thing is that more daughters and parents are showing interest and seeing the opportunities. I believe that most of the new generation and the modern farmer understands that neither men or women are inherently superior or inferior and that we all have something to offer. Men and women farmers always have their individual strengths to bring to the table. I look at farming more holistically following my travels – and know how women and men complement each other in their abilities; each needing the other to make a true business thrive. Women are doing a lot on farms and they are beginning to take up top leadership roles in Agriculture at a rapid pace. Family farms are extremely successful thanks to the joint effort of men and women.

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