IT is a well-known fact that the agriculture industry is constantly changing - whether that's changes in technology or changing seasonal outlooks.
The idea of change is especially clear for women working in the industry, who are at the forefront of altering attitudes and perceptions.
To celebrate International Women's Day, the Wimmera Mail-Times spoke to four women in the agriculture industry about their challenges and triumphs.
AUSTRALIAN Grains Genebank technical assistant Christine Best said she wanted to see more women working in science.
"It does seem very male-dominated, but the positives are that you're not limited to a job that is traditionally accessible. You also get a lot of support from those who do want to promote more women in science," she said.
"Science can seem very dry and boring, and I thought that when I was younger, but it is really interesting and about investigating - it's really rewarding."
One of her primary roles at the Genebank is helping maintain the collection of seeds that are stored in the long-term freezer.
"Because those seeds in the freezer are given away to researchers or people who make requests, the numbers go down - which means we need to grow more plants to produce more seeds," she said.
"So I also work in the regeneration department, where we grow plants in greenhouses or in a field, then those seeds go back into the Genebank."
Ms Best previously worked in native seed dormancy seed research at Kings Park in Western Australia. She decided to move to Horsham and into the agriculture industry.
"Seeds are really cool because seeds do different germination and have different growing environments, so it's a really great challenge to understand what each one does. It's really nice to have a job that produces something that is helpful and interesting," she said.
"It either helps conservation or helps agriculture research, which is important."
BYRNEVILLE farmer Wendy Byrne made history in 2003 when she became the first woman to join the Wimmera Machinery Field Days committee.
Mrs Byrne had been a member of the ladies' sub-committee for a number of years before she was asked to join the main committee.
"I thought it was an honour because prior to me joining it had been an all-male committee," she said.
Wendy Byrne was the only woman on the Wimmera Machinery Field Days from 2003 until 2015 when Longerenong farmer Robyn Gulline joined her.
Mrs Byrne runs a fifth generation, 2000-plus acre mixed farm at Byrneville with her family.
"Farming in general is a challenge with the unpredictability of weather," she said.
She said changes were happening in the agriculture industry to encourage more women to get involved.
"Things have changed quite a lot in the past few years, but it's hard to get women to get onto the field days committee because a lot of them are working mothers. Every year we try to have things that interest women and it's hard to come up with new ideas," she said.
"There are a lot of girls who volunteer, as well as the wives and mothers of committee members."
Mrs Byrne is the Wimmera Machinery Field Days' Country and Lifestyle co-ordinator.
LONGERENONG farmer Robyn Gulline was only the second woman to join the Wimmera Machinery Field Days committee.
Mrs Gulline's move upheld a family's tradition.
"When I first came to Horsham in 1995, my father-in-law was on the committee and my husband Don joined in 1998, and he passed away in 2013. I was invited to join in 2015 - so 2014 was the only year a member of our family wasn't on the committee since 1974," she said.
"It's a really important event for our family and the community. I see the field days as a huge learning environment for current, future and prospective farmers, as well as the general community. I've had a great time being involved."
Mrs Gulline is the managing director of her mixed family farm, Gulline Farms, at Longerenong, and employs three staff. She said she was "lucky" when it came to being a woman in the agriculture industry.
"The men were used to me coming to events with my husband, so when he died they were already used to me being there. They always know I will have something to say," she said.
"I'm very lucky because I'm surrounded by wonderful men in agriculture who are respectful. None of them speak down to me and I am their equal in every way. Occasionally someone will talk down at you, but I don't pay too much attention to them."
In the past Mrs Gulline taught business at Longerenong College.
"I finished at Longy College just when they were starting to see an influx of girls come in. When I started in 2000 there were only a few girls, but now it's well and truly at least a 50/50 split," she said.
She is also the chairwoman of Partners in Ag - a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to facilitate the delivery of professional learning to agriculture sectors in Victoria and Tasmania.
AGRICULTURE Victoria Plant Phenomics technical officer Emily Thoday-Kennedy has worked at Horsham's Grains Innovation Park for four years after moving from her hometown of Adelaide.
"I was looking for a job in a rural town and saw what was happening in Victoria. I was really surprised when I got the job, but have enjoyed the challenges," she said.
Ms Thoday-Kennedy's work changes day to day, and is dependent on the time of year.
"I do a bit of everything from packing seed trials to sowing and processing seeds. I grow out and take field measurements, help in the glasshouse, and work in the lab with samples. One of the things I most enjoy is taking people on tours," she said.
"I love the fact that on a day-to-day basis I get to interact with thousands of different types of plants and see the diversity that the world has given us. I can walk into a wheat field with 6000 different varieties and they are all doing something different."
She said the industry was becoming more inclusive of women.
"I happen to work in a team that is female-challenged, but I think that's just by chance. On site we are fairly even in numbers. It can be a little bit of a challenge sometimes feeling the confidence to say your view - some of that comes from age and some comes from gender," she said.
"It's great to see that recently we have had a lot of female tech officers and scientists start. I'd say to women wanting to get into the industry to have a go - not everything is what you think it is."
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