FAMILY FARM: Kate Groves has worked in many sectors of agriculture but she could never stay away from the family farm.
FAMILY FARM: Kate Groves has worked in many sectors of agriculture but she could never stay away from the family farm. Renee Pilcher

Kate shows the staying power of women on farms

KATE Groves has worked in many sectors of agriculture but she could never stay away from the family farm.

In a male-dominated industry, Ms Groves is an example of the staying power of women on the land.

She grew up on her family's Mary Creek property, just outside Gympie.

I could drive a tractor before I drove a car and when I was a kid my job was to carry the beans up to the sheds.

"Today we farm avocados but when I was growing up it was a small crops farm," Ms Groves said.

"Growing up here was good; I always wanted to leave school and work on the farm.

"I could drive a tractor before I drove a car and when I was a kid my job was to carry the beans up to the sheds."

Ms Groves went on to study at Emerald Agricultural College where she completed a Diploma of Applied science and Irrigated Crop Management.

"I studied most aspects of farming, from butchery to fencing," she said.

After she was qualified, Ms Groves worked in Emerald before heading halfway across the world, thanks to a scholarship.

"I went to Germany for a few months and worked on a big dairy farm," she said.

"It was good to travel and see how other people do things."

She spent some time in Goondiwindi as a sales agronomist before shipping out to Texas, United States, at the age of 23.

For six months Ms Groves worked, care-taking on a farm during the cotton season.

She then worked as a supply manager for two companies in Victoria, before returning to the land that built her; as a mum.

She now has a young daughter, Daisy, and she is happy to work the soil she knows.

"I love the people and being on the land and I love to watch things grow," Ms Groves said.

"The land is an amazing place and what people can do with it is interesting.

"My grandfather was a farmer and my father is, so it runs in the blood."

Today the roots of avocado trees have replaced bean patches and harvest time is almost here.

"As my parents have gotten older they have gone into macadamia nuts and then my brother invested and planted the avocados." Ms Groves said.

"In 2013, I took over the avocados and we grow two varieties," Ms Groves said.

"The trees flower around August and September and we harvest in March and April. I look after the agronomy and the harvesting, Dad looks after the irrigation."

There have been a few challenges faced by the Grove's this season.

"We are struggling a bit with the dry, we lost 75% of our crop in November after a hail storm," Ms Groves said.

"The remaining 25% is also damaged and marked by hail so our saleable produce will be down. Good returns rely heavily on production of quality fruit, little or no skin damage and crops free of pests and disease.

"It's just one of those things and it could be a lot worse, like it is out west.

"We just have to manage the best way we can and focus on the next year."

As a woman in the agriculture industry, Ms Groves has been around the block a time or two and she has seen attitudes change towards female farmers over the years.

"When I first started at ag college, I was the only girl in the second year of female intake and older farmers weren't used to young girls doing the work," she said.

"Now there are a lot more women in the industry and less surprise about women's capabilities.

"Women are now highly regarded because of their attention to detail and 95% of men wouldn't be able to do what they do without their wives."



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