Dialog Box

Community | Education | Environment | History | Rural | Social Justice | Youth
Visible Farmer
Without farmers we’d be starving, naked and homeless. We want women on farms around Australia to proudly declare ‘I am a farmer’. - Invisible Farmer Project

Sallie Jones, 36, did not always see herself as a ‘farmer’. Growing up on the family’s dairy farm she loved working with her mum and grandmother alongside her dad. Getting up at the crack of dawn to milk the cows and going until sunset, they all shared the load. But it was her dad’s role to be the farmer. She never questioned it, until tragedy struck. Australia’s dairy crisis hit hard. Her father died. It changed everything.

Sallie had to step forward and become the farmer, become ‘visible’. And by sharing her story she found other women who showed her that farmers could be female and successful. One turbulent later, Sallie has become an advocate for a sustainable dairy industry and with her business partner she runs a thriving milk label that stands for positive change: “Farming isn’t what it used to be – I’m just on this crazy journey and it’s very exciting.

Farming has always relied on women taking responsibility just as much as the men, but they hardly get the credit. It wasn’t until Sallie was a teenager, in 1994, that Australia even recognised women’s legal status as farmers, instead of domestics, helpmates or farmers' wives.

Women make up 50% of the rural workforce, they generate half of all farm income. Yet google Australian farmer and 90% of all images show middle-aged men. At a time when agriculture is facing a double whammy – a serious shortfall of skilled workers and pressure to produce more food for a growing population – half of its potential leaders are largely overlooked.

It’s time to put a spotlight on the hidden face of agriculture.

The Invisible Farmer Project is the largest ever study of Australian women on the land, revealing their many untold stories and the vital, innovative role they play. For the first time it gives our female farmers a contemporary, authentic voice. A voice to inspire more women to take charge and help shape the future of sustainable food production for all Australians.

This 3-year study (2017-2020) is funded by the Australian Research Council and headed by Museums Victoria in a nation-wide partnership with rural communities and top ranking institutions.

Visible Farmer, the film project, joins forces with the study, criss-crossing the country to discover the extraordinary achievements of the women behind our food and fibre. This multi-platform production has two stages: first, while the study is ongoing, we produce a series of 15 short film portraits for the project’s digital platforms. Second, after its conclusion in 2020, we produce a long-form documentary for national TV and the project’s extensive outreach campaigns.

From remote outback stations to urban market gardens, it’s a journey to challenge and change our perception of who a farmer is.


How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

Visible Farmer is designed to drive social change. We focus on two pressing issues: gender equality and food security. Both are vital for the future of our country.

Women are key agents of change. They are central forces on their farms, in their communities and across a wide spectrum of rural enterprises in Australia. They come from a myriad of Indigenous, and migrant cultures, and offer significant leadership in sustainability, food security, rural communities and policymaking. They are 50% of our rural workforce, yet their voices are hardly heard.

Agriculture still presents itself as one of the least gender diverse industries in the country: 

Women’s representation on Regional Bodies:

  • Agricultural Commodity Councils: 91% male, 9% female

  • Rural representative bodies: 87% male, 13% female

  • Publicly listed agricultural companies: 93% male, 7% female

  • Regional development boards: 75% male, 25% female

This gender inequality carries all the way up to the industry’s boardrooms: a mere 2.3% of all CEOs are female, well below the national average of 17%.

By 2030 the global demand for food is estimated to increase by 35%, water by 40% and energy by 50%. The United Nations have declared gender equality as both a goal and a solution in tackling these major global issues.

We need the new ideas and perspectives that women can inject into agriculture. Female farmers need to be heard and seen.

Visible Farmer, the film project, will re-frame the public face of agriculture. Joining forces with the study and its partnering organisations, foundations, NFP’s, academic, cultural and Government agencies, we will provide the visual tools to instigate debate and empower rural women to achieve their full potential.

In this first phase of the film project and fundraising, we will produce a series of short film portraits of women from different agricultural sectors all around Australia. These films will be freely available on the film project's and study's websites, YouTube and social media to engage and educate the Australian public - create momentum, new communities and conversations. 

In addition to our stories, we will also directly facilitate the research teams by providing data from the field. Our body of work will form a lasting part of their study and educational materials.

As filmmakers we understand the power of storytelling. We know visualising a story is crucial to it being heard.

We look forward to partnering with philanthropists - together we can make a real impact.

We are very excited by the opportunity to work with Kaufmann Productions and the film project. This will greatly enhance our reach, community engagement and impact.”

- Liza Dale-Hallett, lead curator Invisible Farmer Project, Museums Victoria

Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

Working in close cooperation with the film project’s and study’s partnering organisations we aim to: 

• raise public awareness for the diverse, vital & innovative role of women in agriculture

• build a nationwide, long-term network to transform the lives of rural woman: 

    - empower more female farmers to take on leading roles 

    - encourage women through the ranks by providing role models &  mentors 

   - inspire young women from all backgrounds to enter the field of agriculture

• ignite a national debate about contemporary issues facing rural Australia

• enable far reaching outcomes in research, industry and eventually public policy to reverse the gender inequality in Australian agriculture

The short films of phase one are designed for free access and online sharing, where engagement can be directly measured:

The study's digital platforms are constantly growing. Its social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) is already attracting over 100,000 interactions every week (views, likes, shares, comments). An impressive indication of its reach and impact.

Influencers starting conversations on social media begin to span across all states, urban and rural communities, agricultural industries, NGOs, media, MPs, and internationally. 

Current Twitter followers include: Australian Ambassador to Ireland Australian, US Department of Agriculture in Wisconsin, Public Records Office Victoria, Professor Marcia Langton, Local Government Association of QLD, Farmer Meets Foodie, Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering.

While digital platforms can measure impact via viewer interactions, other impacts develop over time:

The long-form documentary of phase two will reach a national TV audience and together with the short films, it will form an integral part of the project’s dedicated educational program and outreach campaign. Tracking numbers of attending visitors, schools reached and TV ratings are some indicators for the reach and impact.

Only two months after its February 2018 release on ABC, our recent 1-hour documentary FARMER NEEDS A ROBOT, has already attracted one million viewers across urban and rural regions, via traditional TV and on ABC’s digital platforms like iView. The film is also reaching many schools and universities via EnhanceTV, an educational video platform to give teachers access to curriculum-linked content.

Ultimately we want to bring about structural change. The study, funded by ARC (LP 160100555), will measure and track every shift towards their main goal: gender diversity. Its key indicator will be rising percentages of women representing on industry bodies. 

An enlightened Google search reflecting women’s rightful place in agriculture will be the perfect measure for changed public awareness.


What is your education and outreach strategy?

We work in a united front with the project's partners, who in turn amplify the reach and impact of each strategy through their own networks, including:

• dedicated social media engagement

• series of education programs for primary & high school students

• school & university screenings

• community events

• touring exhibition to visit regional centres

• milestone media campaigns across social media, print, radio and TV

• enhanced speaker engagement at agricultural conferences and bodies

• book on the stories collected

• series of academic papers on a wide range of topics, from the history of rural women’s movement to contemporary analysis 

• series of 45 life histories of Australian farm women to form a major public collection to be held a the National Library of Australia

Central to these outreach strategies are our media assets, the visual stories provided by our film project, which is designed for multi-platform reach with 2 distinct production phases:

Phase 1: a series of 15 short film portraits of women from different agricultural sectors while the study is ongoing (2018-2020); films are regularly posted on the project’s social media, engaging with its rapidly growing online community, while actively facilitating research and outreach 

Phase 2: a long-form feature documentary towards the end of the 3-year study (2020) to reach a national audience across TV, event cinemas and the project’s continuing outreach campaigns

Visible Farmer, the film project, follows an ‘up-side-down’ distribution pathway: starting with freely accessible short films online, then moving on to traditional platforms for the long form in Phase 2. This will build a strong community who will continue to drive the change for gender diversity well into the future.

We are currently seeking funding for Phase 1 only.

Funding of Phase 2 will build on the success of Phase 1 and start in 2019.

The study's current partners and supporters include: 

ABC Rural, Museums Victoria, National Foundation for Australian Women, National Library of Australia, National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame Alice Springs, The University of Melbourne, Victorian State Government, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Australian Women in Agriculture, National Centre for Farmer Health, NSW Rural Women’s Network (DPI), The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, Victorian Women’s Trust, Women's Industry Network Seafood Community.

Agriculture is a fairly blokey culture. We are determined to change that. We want to be gender inclusive, dynamic and progressive.

- Fiona Simson, first female President of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF)

Gisela Kaufmann
Gisela Kaufmann & Carsten Orlt
Total budget
120 Minutes