Finalist 2016: Kelly Anne Yoon, NSW
Name: Kelly Anne Yoon
Community, State: Parkes, NSW
School: Parkes High School
Age: 16, Grade 12
Why is gender equality important to you and your community?
It sounds like something off ‘The Farmer Wants A Wife’ – a city woman marries a farmer and moves with her daughter from a city of four million to a rural town of 12,000.
Only, I’m the daughter, and this is my reality.
My phobia of anything with more than four legs posed difficulties that first summer in Parkes. The silence of nights at the farmhouse unnerved me; where was the rumble of Sydney traffic? But as months passed, I came to regard the arthropods more as friends than fiends; and, looking up at the clear night sky untouched by pollution, practically crooned “How’s the serenity?”
Mum and I got our hands dirty – shearing, mustering and feeding sheep. Surrounded by middle-aged men, I discovered that the median age of farmers is 53; 13 year’s senior of workers in other occupations! As a result, I began to consider the future of farming.
A 2014 University of Canberra study found 27% of farmers were “likely” or “very likely” to quit the agricultural sector by 2020. This figure is alarming for Parkes; agriculture forming the basis of its commercial and civic lifeblood since colonial times.
With the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimating that a 70% increase in world food production is required by 2050 to accommodate the growing population, the issue of agriculture and food supply also has implications on a national and global level.
It is now more important than ever to encourage people to remain on the land. What better way than to promote female representation in agriculture? Women account for a mere 28% of Australia’s farming workforce; reflective of the widely-held prejudice that males are more valuable farmers. Moreover, patriarchal family traditions surrounding farm succession planning often exclude willing, able-bodied women. This is deeply disheartening, as my family emigrated from Asia to ‘the lucky country’ so I could enjoy more opportunities as a female.
By falsely stereotyping women as being unwilling to get their hands dirty, farming communities such as Parkes miss out on the vital contribution women can make to agriculture. I am optimistic, however, that if I, a city-dweller for 14 years, am able to not only adjust, but come to love Parkes, societal attitudes are also capable of changing.
Why can’t the WIFE be the farmer?
 Abs.gov.au. (2016). 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, Dec 2012. [online] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Dec+2012#back1 [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016].