A love and passion for the land has opened up many doors for this column’s subject, Lisa Brassington. The 2017 Women in Horticulture award winner is Quality and Land Management manager at Peninsula Fresh Organics, a certified organic market garden in Victoria, and she has a strong social media presence. Vegetables Australia spoke to Lisa about her achievements, the opportunities she has received and the importance of recognising women in the horticulture industry.

Fast facts

Name: Lisa Brassington
Location: Baxter, VIC
Works: Peninsula Fresh Organics
Role: Quality and Land Management Manager

Coming from multiple generations of farmers in the King Valley region, and having grown up in the north eastern Victorian town of Wangaratta, Lisa Brassington was destined to work with the land.

However she fell in love with a city boy, her now-husband Nathan, which meant that city living became part of her current circumstances and her future life.

After a career in strategic town planning and stints at local Victorian councils, Lisa joined Wayne and Tash Shields and their certified organic farming business Peninsula Fresh Organics – and hasn’t looked back.

Lisa’s innovative ideas, passion and tireless work in the peri-urban farming space were honoured at Hort Connections 2017 in Adelaide, with the Land and Quality Manager taking home the prestigious Women in Horticulture award.

She is also completing a Master in Horticultural Business, a scholarship she received from Horticulture Innovation Australia and AUSVEG, to study with the University of Tasmania. Prior to this, she participated in the National Rural Women’s Coalition E-Leader Course.

The beginning

Lisa was a self-described “happy local veggie shopper” at Peninsula Fresh Organics when the opportunity came up to work in the business and meet the increasing demands of day-to-day duties.

The passionate industry leader was employed by Wayne and Tash to oversee quality assurance and land management as well as environmental balance for the business, which grows around 43 seasonal varieties of fresh produce, from leeks to heritage carrots and leafy green Asian vegetables.

“Being a sounding board when Wayne talks about soil health is great – he’s very clever with soil and we like to have a bit of a banter about soil health. If you have healthy soil, you have healthy veggies,” she explains.

“With that came the quality assurance paperwork, not only from a certified organic farming perspective but also for being a vegetable supplier to wholesale and retail markets.”

A high achiever

The 2017 Women in Horticulture award left Lisa overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of needing to be a continual positive role model for women in the industry. She was also full of praise for the other nominees.

“It was amazing to be among those women. I was listening to their stories and their business and industry achievements and then my name was called out. The gratitude and honour was overwhelming,” Lisa says.

The accolades have kept on coming – Lisa was a Victorian finalist for the 2017 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s award. This was achieved as a result of her project entitled Ducks: Stirred not Shredded, which aims to develop a national real time predictive bird and bat strike program. The outcome of this would be to deter the pests from feasting on horticultural produce and divert them back into their natural wetland habitats.

Being nominated for the RIRDC Rural Women’s award was a turning point for Lisa.

“As much as I’m comfortable with public speaking, I’ve often been a shadow player in other ideas, innovation or being invited around the regional table to discuss solutions,” she says.

“Getting shortlisted to be interviewed for the award meant my idea was actually valuable, it was innovative and worth recognising. It’s given me the encouragement to follow this commercially and get it on the market.”

“I think young women need to be able to put their hand up and say ‘I absolutely love this, I want to do it, I am part of this team – who else can I speak to who’s been down my path?’

Staying social

A prominent user of social media, Lisa has plans to develop a women in horticulture discussion group, similar to the current AgChatOZ online community which discusses topical issues once a week in an open forum.

“I’ve seen how well AgChatOZ runs for wide-ranging agriculture, but it doesn’t have a core-vegetable or core-horticultural focus, that I think hort would benefit from. I’d like to test the idea and perhaps see how that would run because I think a forum like that works quite well for seasonal hort and busy ag women,” Lisa says.

Adding to Lisa’s already busy schedule is the Women on Farms Gathering 2018 which will be hosted on the Mornington Peninsula. In its 29th year, the Gathering aims to nourish women’s agribusiness skills, their personal wellbeing and also provide a friendly forum to air any concerns or provide general agricultural advice.

The final word

Lisa’s passion for farming and horticulture is there for everyone to see – on social media, in her achievements and through her work at Peninsula Fresh Organics.

Lisa’s advice for women in horticulture is simple: Don’t shy away from hard work – and it’s something she sees daily, with the commitment, from Tash and Sue Shields.

“I am a female where my family’s farming went down the line to males – women were never excluded, but were never up at the table. I think young women need to be able to put their hand up and say ‘I absolutely love this, I want to do it, I am part of this team – who else can I speak to who’s been down my path?’

“Don’t shy away from hard work. Hard work is for anyone who loves what they’re doing, no matter what industry you’re in.”

“If you want to learn how to drive a tractor, do it. If you want to learn to get a forklift licence, do it. If you want to put a pair of muddy boots in the back of the car, just have some newspaper to put them on. Enjoy ag, just get out there and do it.”

This profile first appeared in the leading magazine for the Australian potato industry, Vegetables Australia. If you’d like to subscribe to receive a new edition of Vegetables Australia in your mailbox every two months, use our online subscription form!

Photography credit: Flick + Dave