By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Women of the Land
By Liz Harfull (Allen & Unwin, $29.99, softcover, 324 pages)
What an inspirational way to celebrate the Australian Year of the Farmer in 2012: by relating eight of the most captivating stories of ordinary women who have achieved exceptional feats in rural Australia.
Liz Harfull – an award-winning journalist, a Churchill Fellow and daughter of South Australian dairy farmers – effectively gives us a glimpse into the astonishing lives of these proud, passionate, down-to-earth Women of the Land.
This heart-warming collection of lifestyle experiences centres on Mary Naisbitt, Tarin Rock, WA; Lynette Rideout, Oakdale, NSW; Jan Raleigh, Timboon, Vic; Nan Bray, Oatlands, Tas; Susie Chisholm, Adelong, NSW; Cecily Cornish, Wando Bridge, Vic; Catherine Bird, Willalooka, SA; and Keelen Mailman, Augathella, Qld.
In introducing each woman’s family background and experiences, Harfull adopts a scholastic approach, instead of taking an intimate tone.
While tragedy may have played a role in some of them becoming farmers, they all share two common things: their “active choices” to be farmers and their love of the land.
Liz was amazed at the “series of coincidences and strange serendipity that kept emerging”, uncovering the unexpected points of connection between this group.
Despite diverse backgrounds, not all women were born into a farming life. After the sudden death of her husband, Mary Naisbitt inherited her 1828-hectare farm and had to raise four children under the age of seven; Catherine Bird, a ‘station brat’ from NT, survived a near-fatal farming accident to raise a family and produce organic beef; Nan Bray, an American oceanographer, walked away from being Australia’s leading marine scientist, to produce one the of the world’s most elite fibres, superfine Merino wool; and Susie Chisholm, the original ‘earth mother’, overcame the grief of losing the love of her life to cancer to become an elite beef cattle breeder.
Their personal struggles and incredible achievements are extraordinary – and commitment to their farms – is commendable.
Edition 406, 22 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.