By Shelby Brooks
NEWLY elected president of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), Emma Germano will advocate for better access to resources in regional communities during her presidency.
She believes a lack of access to resources in regional Victoria poses a large problem for farmers.
“We deserve to have all of the same resources available to us as people in the city,” Ms Germano said.
“Whether that is health care, whether that’s access to community stories through the media, whether that’s the capacity to buy from small businesses that are able to thrive in the regions.
“We are moving further and further away from being acknowledged as equal citizens.”
With the agriculture industry one of the biggest employers in the state, politicians needed to realise there was a Victoria outside the city tram lines, Ms Germano said.
“We see a really disproportionate amount of resource allocation between city and regional and that is something that needs to be corrected,” she said.
“Rates are one of the big ones that the VFF goes after. What you get for your rates when you live in
Hawthorn compared to a farmer in South Gippsland is not fair and needs to be rectified.”
Although Ms Germano is based in Mirboo North, she said issues facing farmers in Gippsland and Bass Coast were not exclusive to the area.
“Largely what happens in Gippsland as a problem is usually reflected anywhere else in the state,” she said.
“You might have really specific, localised issues but they are generally related to something bigger that not only affects all farmers in Victoria, but generally across the country.
“Across the board we need to keep ensuring we are bringing our communities along with us and that the community understands and appreciates agriculture, not only for the food it produces that people eat, but what it does for regional communities and how many people we employ.
“A lot of the businesses that operate and exist in regional community are really just flow on in the supply chain from farms in some aspect,” she said.
A farmer from Mirboo North
Ms Germano grew up on her family’s farm in Mirboo North and surprised herself 10 years ago when she made the transition back to Gippsland.
“I had been doing business consulting prior to [moving back] and one day my dad and I were having a conversation and I was criticising the way he was doing things and he said, ‘well if you think you can do a better job why don’t you come here and give us a hand like you do your other businesses’,” she said.
“I just assumed it would be a couple of months but 10 years later!”
Ms Germano is now managing director of her family’s mixed farm operation, ‘I Love Farms’, growing cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes and sheep.
“Occasionally we have beef, but we’ve gone more heavily into the sheep the last few seasons because they’re a bit easier on our ground,” she said.
“[During winter] the cattle are harder on the ground that we use for cropping so that was one reason, and from a cashflow perspective, I suppose they [sheep] worked in better with our rotations.
“We have our own flock and we also purchase in lambs to fatten and have been doing that for a couple of years and sheep prices have been good so no reason to stop at this point.”
As a young female in the industry, she was pursued by several advocacy groups which ultimately culminated in her holding the VFF presidency.
“[Starting with VFF] was really just an opportunity I said yes to without thinking too much about the trajectory of it,” Ms Germano said.
“But being part of the organisation, I’ve realised that advocacy is actually really important, and the socio-political environment has such an impact on how successful you are on your farm.”
Ms Germano kept saying yes to every opportunity that came her way at the VFF until she was elected president in December last year.
“I just knew the organisation had so much potential in regards to the financial resources that the organisation has and the large number of members in every part of the state growing just about
everything you could imagine,” she said.
“I just thought [being president] was a great opportunity to bring the organisation forward and probably modernise it a bit and get more young people involved in it.”
For Ms Germano, farming has been a way for her to bring many passions together.
“It really encompasses all the things I love that I never thought never really fit together anywhere,” she said.
“Farming has so much integrity as a profession and so much opportunity as we see technology come in.
Its not about just owning a little farm anymore, farmers have the opportunities to have really excellent businesses.
“We feed people, we take care of the environment and we are stewards of the land.”