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South Australian icon, Robyn Verall, is at the forefront of agriculture

2022 SA AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award Winner, Robyn Verall, recently visited Flow Media's Roseworthy studios for an exclusive wide-ranging interview for Flow's Country Viewpoint program.

Image credit: Flow Media archives

The Director of Bully's Meat in Keith spoke about a number of important issues close to her heart, though the first topic she addressed is one not often covered in the legacy media - succession planning for families on farms.

While Verall refrained from divulging specific details relating to her current predicament, the award-winning author highlighted the importance of succession planning, which she believes is the best way for families to avoid bitter fallouts.

"It leaves a lot of farming families, those that are working on the farms, lost and looking for somewhere to go...we only get paid once a year and you go through all these intricacies of a family business that you knew nothing about," Verall said. 

"So, 20 years down the track, there comes another grab for farming land or money and it becomes a real battle, like we are actually in court on this issue at the moment.

"I think if you're in any sort of trust, no matter what trust unit that it is, getting advice from the get-go...that you really should be prepared for absolutely anything as succession seems to bring out the best and the worst in everybody.

"There's fingers of blame, the parent factor, the brother, the sibling factor, and you really should have maybe even a mediator, so from the get-go, you're talking in conflict because these conversations aren't easy to have, everyone's got to be honest."

Verall also weighed in on the storm brewing between Australia's supermarket giants and producers, growers and consumers.

Verall gave a comprehensive summary of why it is becoming increasingly challenging for Australian producers to sustain themselves in the current marketplace.

"Not just from a farming point of view, but even as a consumer we should all be concerned," Verall said.

"When you get duopolies and monopolies, we've had ACCC look at even stockyards and selling at markets, there is apparently nothing to see here.

"As a farmer, when you go to start your business after taking a break over Christmas and you get told, 'oh, hang on a tick, here's the new price increase, here's this price increase' and you go, 'well, I didn't actually account for nearly a $45 price increase just this year' - we're back to the drawing board right now trying to work out how to do our home-based delivery business."

"I did talk to supermarkets earlier on, but they say to you this is the weight that we want, so if you want a lamb we want an 18 kilo lamb that's fully dressed which means it's ready to go on the supermarket shelves, they pack it and if you go over that they take dollars off per kilo, so how do you make money from that?

"Farmers are really held a lot by what they say they (supermarket chains) don't do, which is have all these practices that we actually have to either abide by or walk away."

Finally, on the week of International Women's Day for 2024, Verall addressed her AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award from 2022 and reminded listeners that women have always been prevalent in Australia's agriculture industry.

"I'm a real supporter, not just of women, but people seem to forget that we're 50% of the workforce, so when people say women are entering into it, I think women are actually now standing up and saying, 'hey look, it's okay if I'm doing this because I'm going to share this with you', the Agribusiness Rural Women's Award for me was life changing," Verall said.

"At the time I was, and I still do, supply meat, affordable meat, into communities, First Nations communities here in South Australia and in the Northern Territory and we we're desperate to get a cool van because some of those communities are nearly 100km

from Alice Springs. 

"I worked really closely with Food Bank and they'd set up a food bank there and they're great because I can actually have meat delivered into their cool room and someone comes and collects it. So I went into the judges and I said, actually I'm here because that $15,000 is not going to change my life, but it's going to change the life of people I will never meet, people I don't understand. But as a single mother in my early years, I had problems, even in a secure job, getting food. And when I met one of them and she had nothing in her freezer that stays with me. 

"I really support any woman and happy to chat to any woman that wants to go into this award (AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award), because it's not just about what you can change for you it's really about changing that landscape and putting what things like I do out into the community."


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