Over the last decade, AUSVEG has recognised the leading female members of the Australian horticulture industry who have demonstrated outstanding ability and success in their chosen fields.

Those who have received the Women in Horticulture award continue to inspire and influence the industry, and it recognises the key role that women play in ensuring Australian horticulture continues to be a strong contributor to the country’s agricultural sector.

In Vegetables Australia – Summer 2020/21, Michelle De’Lisle speaks to four horticulture industry members who received one of the industry’s highest accolades from the National Awards for Excellence, which is held each year at Hort Connections (formerly known as the National Horticulture Convention).

Belinda Adams, Deborah Corrigan, Rachel Mackenzie and Sharron Windolf share what has changed since they received their awards as well as what they’re doing today, and their plans for the future. Keep your eye out for next edition of the magazine, with more profiles to come.

Rachel Mackenzie (QLD, 2018)

Rachel Mackenzie’s career has taken a ‘berry’ different turn since receiving the Boomaroo Nurseries Women in Horticulture award a couple of years ago.

Back then, Rachel was Growcom Chief Advocate – holding that role with Queensland peak horticulture body for almost a decade. While at Growcom, Rachel led the establishment of the Fair Farms Initiative, a program that supports ethical employment practices in the Australian horticulture industry and aims to lift employment standards across the sector nationally.

This is Rachel’s proudest achievement to date, and it was spearheading this initiative – along with her commitment to the horticulture industry on both a state and national level – that saw Rachel receive the Boomaroo Nurseries Women in Horticulture Award at Hort Connections 2018.

Nowadays, you’ll find Rachel bringing her experience to the national stage as Berries Australia Executive Director.

2018 Boomaroo Nurseries Women in Horticulture award winner, Rachel Mackenzie.

Pathway to horticulture

Originally a science and journalism student, Rachel joined the public service working in fisheries. That role led to a role at the Coastal CRC as national projects manager.

“Many of the projects I worked on looked at the role farmers can play in delivering environmental outcomes, provided they are properly engaged,” Rachel says.

“When the Coastal CRC wound up, I ended up at Growcom as the manager of the land and water team. While at Growcom, I was given the opportunity to take on the Operations Manager role and then the Chief Advocate position.”

Since taking on the Executive Director post at Australia’s peak body for berries, Rachel’s knowledge and networks have expanded.

“Moving from a purely advocacy role focused across all of horticulture in one state to a berry-specific national executive role has been a learning curve,” Rachel says.

“I have learnt not to underestimate the power of networks as I have had to establish new ones in this current role. It has also been exciting to get a deeper understanding of the berry industry and the challenges and opportunities in the export space.”

Casting her mind back a couple of years, Rachel is grateful for her award.

“I really appreciated the recognition, not only for myself but for the contribution that those of us working in advocacy can make. There are so many amazing women in horticulture, so it was humbling to be selected,” she says.

“I think winning the award has raised my profile and is useful in terms of quickly establishing my credibility in new situations.”

Rachel’s passion for horticulture is as strong as ever. Looking ahead five years, she hopes to be still making a meaningful contribution to the berry industry.

“I’m a farm girl at heart, so I enjoy getting out on farm and talking to the growers. I am consistently blown away by the level of sophistication of many horticultural enterprises,” she says.

Click on each name to read the stories of three other previous Women in Horticulture award winners: Belinda Adams, Deborah Corrigan and Sharron Windolf

This article features in the summer 2020 edition of Vegetables Australia. Click here to read the full publication. 

Find out more

Hort Connections 2021 will be held from 7-9 June 2021 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, and early bird registrations are now open.

More details around the event will be released in the coming months. For more information or to register, please visit the Hort Connections website.