There’s a bit of an insider joke among farmers’ wives that when you marry a farmer be prepared to turn your hand to anything.
Irrigating, tractor repairing, planting, drenching, smoko, book-keeping, school teaching, delivery driving … these are just some of the jobs a farmers’ wife may be called upon to do.
I’ve been married to a vegetable farmer for the past 11 years and what a ride it’s been.
When we met (at a New Year’s Eve party on the Gold Coast) I was a journalist, in between jobs and headed to the UK on a one-way ticket.
Let’s just say vegetable farm in the Gold Coast hinterland was NOT on my ‘to do’ list.
Just as ‘opinionated, city slicker wordsmith, with no aptitude for numbers’ wasn’t on his list of ‘wifely qualities’.
And yet here we are, down the road, tracking not too badly.
In my duties as farmer’s wife I’ve organised accommodation for a small army of seasonal farm workers, I’ve written the words on produce bags, I’ve promoted the merits of supporting Aussie farmers and buying local produce and I’ve become the unofficial cheer girl for all things agriculture.
But these past six months have presented one of the biggest – and best – challenges yet.
Agriculture is largely the domain of men. Just as most supermarket management teams are bloke heavy.
And yet it’s usually women who are pushing a trolley up and down the aisles trying to balance the budget and feed the family healthy, nutritious meals.
Since marrying a veggie farmer I’ve spent many hours loitering in the supermarket produce section, conducting unofficial research on the way people shop; what they’re buying; how produce is priced and what the competition is up to.
I often return home and tell my husband where I think he – and his industry – is going wrong.
The problem with being opinionated is that eventually someone calls you on it and tells you to put up or shut up.
Which is exactly what my husband did six months ago when I bemoaned the lack of easy, healthy lunchbox snacks at the supermarket.
‘Why don’t you hurry up and do a range of snacking carrots,’ I asked him.
I was sick of throwing handy – but unhealthy – biscuit and chip packets in the kids’ lunchboxes.
Sure I could chop my own carrots – God knows we have enough of them – but somehow it’s often too hard when I’m throwing together lunchboxes, five minutes before the bus is due.
My husband is a master delegator and told me mine was an excellent idea and he was happy to make it happen but only if the local farmers’ wives drove the project.
The farmers in our area have married well and lucky for them our little group of women have diverse and useful skills.
I’m okay with words. Jane is a master organiser and marketer. Gen is a lawyer, turned government manager, who makes stuff happen.
Tracey’s background is in banking, accounts and Vicki is a gifted schoolteacher.
Between us we make a formidable team and together we created Just Veg. – a range of ready-to-eat carrot snacks and meal solutions.
We met on weekends and at night and oversaw everything from the branding, the packaging, the product specs, the food styling, publicity and logistics.
It’s been a massive learning curve and this month our range was launched through selected Woolworths stores in QLD, NSW and Victoria.
Not only does the range solve the problems of living a busy life but it’s also great news for farmers too. Hear Richard talk about value-adding with Craig Zonca on QLD Country Hour.
Now instead of feeding the funny-shaped carrots to the cows, they can be sliced, diced and shredded and make money for the farmer.
Just Veg. is a real win-win … for farmers (and their wives) and for time-poor shoppers.
To celebrate the launch of Just Veg. we’re offering our customers the chance to win a stunning pair of diamond and white gold earrings valued at $4700. Find out more about the Carat for your Carrots Competition