The force is with you
President: Good work supported by science
AFTER back-to-back board meetings in Brisbane, Georgie Somerset can assure you there will be plenty of jobs waiting for her when she gets home to the family cattle property.
Alongside her husband Robert, the couple run My Yon outside of Durong in the South Burnett region.
This week marked Mrs Somerset’s first seven days as AgFroce general president. She’s the first woman in the role since the member-based group was formed in 1999.
Her extensive resume includes currently serving on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) board, and as director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Queensland, and for the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.
She is a long-time advocate of rural Australia, and someone who is deeply proud to be a farmer.
While on a bus to Toowoomba to meet her husband for a lift back to their property, Mrs Somerset talked through her goals as an industry leader.
A key focus for her was to quash any doubts the community might have around food production.
“While we are trusted to grow great food and fibre, there is still trust to build around how we do that,” she said.
“We need to continue the work we have been doing so people actually hear about the great stories.
“People need to hear what’s happening in a production sense: how farmers are managing the landscape, identifying diversity and increasing productivity.”
This year, Mrs Somerset noticed a shift within the industry as more farmers found a voice through the green-shirt movement and during vegetation law protests.
“In a sense I think there were people who had just had enough this year,” she said.
“I think, also, there is a growing pride that what we do is backed by science and it’s backed by best practice – we look after our people, our animals and our land.
“We can never assume the community knows that.”
AgForce ran a fierce campaign against the Queensland Government’s vegetation management laws, which were eventually introduced in May this year.
On this matter, Mrs Somerset said the fight was far from over.
“We won’t be backing down from it,” she said.
“We are exploring every avenue.
“We are continuing to advocate for a science-based approach that’s sustainable and will deliver what we know to be the best outcome for the landscape.”
Advocacy work started more than two decades ago for Mrs Somerset, and an early highlight was spending Expo
❝ We look after our people, our animals and our land. We can never assume people know that. — Georgie Somerset
88 in Brisbane talking about inland Queensland and farming.
“I have long been proud of what we do,” she said.
“There wasn’t one point when I decided to step up. It’s been a long journey for me.”
After a busy few days on the job, which included handing out beetroot at the Queen St Mall during National Agriculture Day, then attending the RFDS board meeting, Mrs Somerset said she was keen to get back onto her property.
“It can be assured there will be jobs for me when I get home,” she said.
“I will shovel the cotton seed, or help out in the cattle yards when I am there.
“One of the hardest things about being away is missing the work on our place.
“I try and stay as connected as possible. I am still responsible for the business side of our business.”
Next year, she predicts she will be on the road more often visiting farmers and graziers in the regions.
She agreed it was a milestone for her to become the first female AgForce general president, but shrugged off any shattering of the glass ceiling.
AgForce was formed in 1999 following a merger between the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia, the Queensland Graingrowers’ Association and the United Graziers’ Association.
“There have been amazing women before me,” she said.
“If you look back, you will see the Cattlemen’s Union had a female CEO, so our forebears were certainly in there doing this before me.
“I think having 40 per cent of our board as women at AgForce is reflective of our industry.
“Women have always had a strong role, they just haven’t always been visible.
“It’s not about whether we are men or women, it’s about the skills and attributes we bring.”
ON THE GROUND: AgForce general president Georgie Somerset during National Agriculture Day.