Author: Katrina Sasse | Supporter: Katrina Nuffield Scholarship was supported by Grains Research & Development Corporation

Though the Australian agricultural sector is making strides in achieving gender balance objectives, a greater focus must be placed on shifting the traditional patterns of patrilineal succession and the way rural communities perceive daughter successors, in order to further engage and empower women to remain on family farming operations.

That’s according to a report by 2017 Nuffield Scholar and West Australian grain grower, Katrina Sasse, whose research was motivated by her own experiences on returning to the farm.

With support from the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC), Katrina travelled throughout USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, meeting with family farmers, agribusiness consultants, academics and private and public-sector managers, to better understand how daughters are engaging in farm succession planning in advanced agricultural economies.

Daughter farm successors

Throughout her travels, Katrina investigated global perspectives surrounding family farm succession management and ownership; enabling her to identify practices and business structures that are setting up daughters to become farm successors.

“Travelling to Grinsted, Denmark, I spoke with dairy farm owner and 2016 Danish Young Farmer of the Year, Connie Linde, who decided to leave the family dairy farm and purchase her own operation in 2015 at just 26 years old,” she says.

“As a role model for change in succession management, Connie said you have to be tough and be proud to show that women can excel at both the business and practical side of farming.”

“She has maintained the support of her family during this process and continues to upskill through management and leadership courses, focusing on innovation and maximising efficiencies within her enterprise.”

Promoting the benefits of gender equality

In the report, Katrina speaks of how traditionally daughters aren’t afforded equal opportunity of succession, and as a result, family farm management and leadership has become a sort of male hegemony with daughters rarely thought of as future leaders in farming.

“Daughters are an untapped resource in family farming. Many of the female successors I met had very strong credentials in terms of higher education, agricultural experience, and business and technological skills, which often set them apart in their industry and local communities,” she says.

“For the first time in history we are seeing women take over multi-generational family farms, but there are still discrepancies in the socialisation patterns of boys and girls in farming communities.”

“Pigeonholing women into categories such as farmer’s wife or daughter-in-law, perpetuates the gender bias in rural communities. There needs to be a paradigm shift in agriculture that involves structural changes to the way people think and make decisions about farm succession at both a home and community level.”

“Women bring diversity, innovation and thought leadership to the agricultural sector, and both men and women must continue to promote and validate the achievements of female farmers.”

Travelling to Quebec, Katrina met 28-year-old Swiss Canadian dairy farmer and herd manager, Regula Estermann, who spoke about the opportunities in the agricultural sector that opened up when she moved from Switzerland to Canada.

“Regula explained that in Switzerland it is not common for daughters to participate in farming, women are not afforded opportunities to work in the same capacities as men, and mainly manage the family and household domain,” she says.

“Regula then went to USA for several years after school to manage a large dairy herd of a corporate dairy company knowing full well she would like to return home to the farm, but felt it was critical to gain invaluable knowledge and expertise in managing cow health and nutrition first.”

“She returned to her family farm in Quebec where she has taken over the herd management responsibility from her father, with his understanding that her leadership and skills will benefit the business and boost productivity gains.”

Industry-wide, Industry-led solutions

Katarina concluded that although there are various initiatives across the globe that seek to empower women into agriculture, there is very limited visibility in regard to the roadblocks women face when it comes to succession planning.

“To change the way our rural communities think about succession, we need to see more industry-led initiatives that focus on building the capacity of women to remain on family farms and become successors,” she says.

“Then on the home-front, parents need to be challenging gender role stereotypes, recognising unique strengths and capabilities, and ensuring both sons and daughters are given equal opportunities for succession.”

“We need to continually encourage the upskilling and development of young women in our sector, sharing stories of female successors so the younger generation view it as a viable career option and feel empowered to pursue it.”

“To safeguard the success and continuity of family farming enterprises, we need to continue striving for a balanced gender setting on farms and within rural communities across Australia, and ensuring daughter are engaged and empowered in family farm succession planning.”

Katrina’s recommendations following her scholarship report:

For Parents:

  • Involve daughters in the farm at a young age, including teaching them farm skills and transferring knowledge.
  • Daughters need to participate in as many planned, experiential learning activities on the farm as the sons and to be helped, taught, coached and encouraged.
  • Parents, especially fathers (and grandfathers), should encourage daughters in all aspects of the business, particularly areas that were typically ‘men’s work’. Teach daughters how to use tools, how to make something, to have a go without obligation, and learn by mistakes.
  • Businesses need to capitalise on different strengths and see diverse skills as an asset. Siblings can work in a harmonious business partnership where daughters and sons do not have to work side-by-side on daily tasks but their strengths compliment the other.

For Daughters:

  • Be proactive. Early planning and management of the succession process is critically important. Have open communication with your family. Discuss returning to the farm and bring up the succession conversation early with your parents.
  • Know your parents’ retirement intentions to understand their expectations and plan for it.
  • Talk to other women about running a farm or find a mentor who will be able to share their journey and help you find yours.
  • Weigh up the pros and cons of a career on the farm, accept some uncertainty, and make a final decision with your gut instinct.
  • If you have a long-term partner, engage with them on ideas as to how it may work, how roles and responsibilities will be shared on the farm and in the household.
  • Call out sexism and unconscious bias. The more women raising awareness about the issue the easier it will be for the next generation.
  • Use social media to spread thoughts on complex issues, and gain community support.
  • Understand that you can manage and tackle farms and their issues solo and seek help when needed. Employing people with differing skills and building a good team ensures a strong business.
  • Understand what women farmers have achieved so far and how things have changed, but steer clear from reinforcing gender stereotypes. Think outside the square as not every farm needs to be managed the same way. Be bold and different.
  • Know your strengths and take note of the work that invigorates you.
  • Talk early to your family farm bank manager about future goals.
  • If you have not been considered as the family farm successor, then have a conversation with your parents about what they can do to support you in your desire to run a farm or have a career in the industry.
  • If succession planning does not go your way, don’t let it set you back. A path can be forged without the family farm by running, owning or managing a different enterprise.
  • Social media pages can assist farmers’ daughters by showing what other daughters are doing on farms, and to see the possibilities for women in farming.

For Agricultural Leaders:

  • There is little information available to inform government on the economic and social barriers for daughters entering family farming.
  • Opening the patrilineal family farm succession matrix and transforming it to be more inclusive to women is a way to correct the systemic gender imbalance.
  • Industry should provide policy advice to the Australian government on rural issues pertaining to women, should leverage the feminist perspective on gender equality and discuss how women gaining equal share of decision making and ownership in agriculture is a matter for rural sustainability and progress.
  • A workbook on succession management for women successors is needed for use by succession planners and other agribusiness consultants to avoid the typical farm succession language, which too often reinforces unconscious gender biases.
  • Successful stories of women successors need to be shared as widely as possible, online and through other forms of media. More incentives and campaigns to encourage youth, particularly women, to view agriculture and related fields as a viable career is vital. Initiatives include:
    • Invisible Farmer Project
    • Australian Women in Agriculture group
    • Women in Farming Enterprises group
    • Country Women’s Associations
    • Rural Edge ‘Inspire Summit’
    • Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s (RRR) women’s network’s
    • AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

Find out more:

To read Katrina’s report Raising women to farm: A study of daughter succession in a changing family farm environment, please visit

For more information, or to read more reports like Katrina’s, please visit