They used to be called farmer’s wives. Now they’re called farmers

When Bronwyn Ryan married into a farming family and moved to a wheat, canola, sheep and cattle farm in 1998, women had only just been allowed to list themselves as farmers on the census.

Now Ryan leads the Harden branch of NSW Farmers Association, which is run entirely by women.

Bronwyn Ryan is the chair of a women-led branch of NSW Farmers in Harden.Credit:Bronwyn Ryan

“A lot of women are expected to either have off-farm income or just raise the kids or only do the books,” Ryan said. “But I am very lucky to have married into a family whose very first question was, would you be willing to drive the trucks?”

Ryan is part of a growing number of women leaders in agriculture tackling the stereotype of “the old bloke in a ute” as farmers endure devastating floods after years of drought, fire, the mouse plague and COVID-19.

NSW Farmers, the state’s largest advocacy group for farmers, said tough times had driven their membership numbers up by 10 per cent since 2016, and the increase was driven by more women taking leadership roles in the organisation.

Women make up more than a third of the agricultural workforce and have long been contributing to about half of real farm income.

Ryan leads the NSW Harden Branch as farmers face flooding, dangerous roads and soaring input costs.

Ryan leads the NSW Harden Branch as farmers face flooding, dangerous roads and soaring input costs.Credit:NSW Farmers

Ryan, who describes herself as a “city girl” born in Adelaide and raised in Toowoomba, said she initially helped her husband on the farm and “was perhaps a farmer’s wife”.

By the time Ryan took over as chair of NSW Farmers Harden this year, she had two decades of operational experience under her belt alongside qualifications in grazing, business and livestock management.

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