Who has the right to call themselves a farmer?

If you want the right to call yourself a doctor of medicine – you need to have done the hard yards at Uni and tick mega multiple boxes post passing your degree

It’s the same with the majority of white collar professions

If you want to call yourself a farmer there are no legal restrictions, no degrees necessary and in reality no boxes you need to tick and some very interesting dictionary definitions


In the field of agriculture the definition of ‘farmer’ is defined by the dictionary of public opinion and those opinions are very diverse

What I know is agriculture doesn’t need more ad nauseam  debate around the definition of the word ‘farmer’. Agriculture needs people with passion and energy. It needs big picture thinkers, its needs bright minds.  Agriculture needs people focused on the greater good.

For me success, for the agriculture sector will be built around ideas, not people. Its time to embrace the notion you don’t have to have dirt under your finger nails and callouses and grey hair and bad knees to have the best interests of agriculture at heart.

There are a couple of great quotes that come to mind

“It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”


‘Nobody remembers what you meant to do. They only remember what you do.”


Here is a great example of the diversity of people who have earned the right to call themselves a farmer reprinted from Leading Agriculture Dec 2015


Bronwyn Roberts


At a packed gala dinner – men in suits, women bejeweled – Farmer Bron takes the stage. Within moments the crowd is engaged, leaning forward in their seats as this confident young woman entertains and educates. She talks fervently of beef, of grazing management and of long days spent fencing. She pays homage to the generations who came before her and speaks of the bright future she envisages for the red meat industry. Ending to hearty applause Bronwyn Roberts is congratulated on her presentation. “Oh, no, no, no’” she laughs, “that’s not me up there, that’s Farmer Bron.” In an instant she has revealed a strength of character that has carried her from shy school girl to an award-winning advocate of Australian agriculture.

Bronwyn can trace a farming heritage back 500 years to English soils and since 1855 the Comiskey surname of her mother has been synonymous with Australian agriculture. “I’m related to half of central Queensland,” she jokes as she tells of growing up in Emerald where her parents balanced a dual lifestyle of on and off-farm employment. Farming was truly in her blood and at the end of high school she was keen to pursue a career in agriculture, but her dreams were smothered. “Mum and Dad didn’t want me to get into ag. They didn’t see a future in it, especially for a girl. There was also pressure from school. I was expected to do the university course I was smart enough to get into – not to waste my smarts on ag. Now I think that’s all a load of crap,” she says forcefully.

Bowing to the pressure Bronwyn commenced a geology degree. And then quit. She followed her heart back to Emerald – a traineeship at the saleyards, a Diploma in Agriculture from the Emerald Agricultural College, and then falling on her feet with a job as a grazing management officer. Bronwyn Roberts was re-directing her career to where she wanted it to go.

In 2002 Bronwyn’s parents bought “Barngo”, a 5,500 acre conventional cropping property at Capella, and set about converting it to a beef operation. The timing was perfect. “I was 19, knew what I wanted, was ready to learn and my Mum and Dad gave me the opportunity to go out and try new things and bring them home.” In the heat, the dust and the drought she worked alongside her father building fences, watering points and yards. “Dad’s thinking was more practical – how to get cattle to yards and off the property – whereas I was keen to fence for rotational grazing. I mostly had wins,” she says with satisfaction and pride. For twelve years Barngo was Bronwyn’s training ground. She attended field days, completed a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management and took all her new skills home. “Sometimes I surprised myself, but I definitely surprised Dad.”

Grazing management on Barngo coincided with Bronwyn’s “town job” with Fitzroy Basin Association Inc. As a grazing management officer she increased her knowledge base by working with farmers throughout central QLD, where the waterways flow to the Great Barrier Reef, to improve their practices. Although she sees no silver bullet for the regeneration of grasslands she is encouraged by the work of holistic operators, whether large or small, or whether for management or regeneration. “The principles of any grazing system are the same. It’s all about rest and recovery and that’s what we were trying to achieve at Barngo.”

By 2012 Bronwyn was ready for a new challenge. While procrastinating over starting a university degree in agricultural science, she discovered Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions Program and thought “this looks pretty cool.” She found the training fantastic and for two years worked with schools in QLD and NSW as part of the Archibull Prize, but most importantly the program spawned Farmer Bron. “I am actually an introverted person and quite shy but I’ve created this character out of Art4Agriculture who can easily get up and talk to people. She is my alter ego.” Farmer Bron has plenty to say. She runs a Facebook page, tweets on Twitter and is fast becoming the young face standing up for the beef industry. “The doors Art4Agriculture opened for me were amazing and it sent me in a new direction,” she says.

A year later the accolades were flowing. She was crowned the AgForce Emerging Leader at the QLD Red Meat Awards, represented Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) at corporate events and was the keynote speaker at the Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership awards dinner.

John Gunthorpe, chairman of the Australian Beef Industry Foundation (ABIF) first met Bronwyn at the Marcus Oldham dinner. “I was very impressed with her verbal presentation and she is a lovely person and a great communicator,” he says. So impressed was he, Bronwyn is now a director of ABIF and manages its website and social media.

While her leadership and advocacy roles were flourishing changes were taking place at Barngo. “I had always known Barngo wouldn’t sustain a second generation and it was Mum and Dad’s superannuation. When it was put on the market in 2014 I had everyone and anyone suggesting I take it on, but no – it was their place. They bought it, they built it up, they weren’t handed anything – and I’ve got my lifetime to do the same,” Bronwyn says with a conviction rich and rare.

Farmer Bron has become a farmless farmer, a term John dislikes. “It doesn’t matter where Bron lives. The work she does for the Fitzroy Basin and the beef industry is critically important. She has earned the right to call herself a farmer.” Bronwyn concurs. “I’ve got a foot in both camps. I consider myself as being off the land even though I didn’t live there and although I may never be a full-time farmer I don’t want to either. I enjoy this dual-lifestyle and the part I can play in education.”

These are strong sentiments, borne of that strength of character, which now sees Bronwyn Roberts – and Farmer Bron – on the national stage standing up for a beef industry she has so much belief in. She has a lifetime to achieve, and it will be a lifetime well worth watching.

So who has the right to call themselves a farmer? Does it really matter? Is the debate even worth oxygen.? Its the 21st century we have moved on from the notion that farming is all mud and flies – embrace the new way of smart farming. Embrace people in the agriculture sector who have the image, the will and the capacity to ensure agriculture is the profitable, innovative and dynamic place that the world wants to partner with

I am sure you will agree Bron can hang out the shingle “Farmer” and the agriculture sector everywhere will celebrate



Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life