This article was provided by Heidi Radcliff and Rachel Brown.

The “Live Laugh Farm” Gathering was the 13th biennial Tasmanian Women in Agriculture (TWiA) Gathering, with the Rubicon Organising Committee delighted to have the opportunity to showcase many of the fantastic rural businesses in the Latrobe Municipality.

In all, over 100 ladies came from not only Tasmania but Flinders Island and the mainland to gather at Latrobe over 18-20 May 2018 for a weekend of friendship, laughter and professional learning.

Leonie Hiscutt MLC officially opened the Gathering at the Ghost Rock winery welcome function, challenging the audience to think about the diverse ways in which TWiA can help and inspire rural women. There were many hugs for old friends and introductions to new friends. It was fascinating to have a cellar tour of the Ghost Rock business owned by the Arnold family – they have grown to become one of the largest family owned businesses in Tasmanian viticulture.

Farm tours

The Saturday farm tours were a highlight of the weekend for many, giving attendees a privileged ‘behind the scenes’ look at some of Tasmania’s most interesting agricultural businesses.

On the Mersey farm tour, we visited Paul Lambert’s dairy and the Rockcliffs’ parsnip farm, where Councillor Rick Rockliff showed us firsthand the impact of the June 2016 floods. We also had a wonderful opportunity to see the exciting developments at Robin Hood’s Well, with Stacey Rocca talking about how she thinks about the 3 ‘I’s in business: inspiration, ideas and innovation.

On the Wesley Vale farm tour, we visited Costa’s raspberry tunnels, Blocker’s flower farm, Thirlstane Gardens‘ hydroponic herbs production and Sun Pharma’s poppy production. Morning tea was on Michael and Heidi Radcliff’s farm, with a generator powering the coffee machine! The group were delighted to see such a diversity of enterprises in very close proximity and there was a lot of comment about the agricultural opportunities in this area, from small, start-up family businesses through to large agribusiness.

There was also a farm tour in the Forth region, visiting the Simplot factory (potatoes), Turners Beach Berry Patch, Tassie Pride Glasshouse capsicum growers and a horse breeder. This tour also had fantastic feedback.

Learning and laughter

On Saturday night, we had 140 people come together to enjoy the the ANZ Gala Dinner at the Australian Axeman’s Hall of Fame. The night was opened by Sarah Courtney, Minister for Primary Industries, and we were very pleased that Latrobe Mayor Peter Freshney and his wife Robyn were able to join us on the night, including for Posie Graeme-Evans’ entertaining stories from her own hobby farm and her experiences writing and producing McLeod’s Daughters.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of TWiA Outstanding Contribution Awards to Annette Reed and Rosie McKinnon in recognition of their leadership, passion and commitment to TWiA over many years.

Our Sunday morning session was at the wonderful Moriarty Hall, where we were treated to a true country morning tea, thanks to the Moriarty Hall Committee. The discussion panel with Steve Longmore (Hill Street Grocers), Marcus Brandsema (Brandsema Tomatoes) and the ladies who own Pure and Purple Garlic was fascinating and informative, and every business could take away something from the issues covered.

We finished the weekend with “laughter yoga” – and many of us went home with sore cheeks after laughing so much. We certainly all felt that the Gathering had lived up to its “Live Laugh Farm” theme for 2018!

We had marvellous sponsorship support from our platinum sponsors ANZ and Hydro Tasmania, and our gold sponsors DairyTas and Tasmanian Alkaloids, plus numerous other sponsors and local businesses who helped along the way, including Latrobe Council. The Rubicon Committee would like to extend a huge thank-you to everyone in the Latrobe Municipality who contributed to making the 2018 Gathering such a success.

This post appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 10 July 2018. Subscribe to the Update using our online form to receive the latest industry news in your inbox every week!