Farmer Emma Germano is now leading one

Conversations and rethinking about gender and diversity in the corporate world have not happened at the same pace in agriculture, and agriculture remains a male-dominated industry. Some of the chores around Germano’s family farm, which grows potatoes, broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower, are beyond their physical limits, causing Germano – and countless other women – to drift towards the operations, logistics and administration of the farming business. The average age of farmers has also increased by 10 years.

However, Germano said the industry is changing. More than half of the young agricultural graduates who bring crucial knowledge about technology and automation to the industry are women. She also saw more women farmers in management and leadership, and in the media.

“Yes, men face resistance and we see that in politics, but it’s a different kind of warfare used against women.”

Emma Germano, President of the Victorian Farmers Union

While Germano’s outspoken demeanor has won the confidence of most members of the Victorian Farmers Federation – “I don’t pull punches. I think this resonates well with farmers who don’t like being screwed” – she has also observed “unconscious bias”.

At the association’s most recent annual meeting, Germano answered questions for more than two hours, one of the longest general meetings in the lobby group’s history.

“There’s no question that this is partly due to unconscious biases, which people are likely to feel more comfortable with asking a woman about what’s both good and bad,” she said. “That’s why I often think, ‘Jesus, you know, the men didn’t get that’.”


When she was running for re-election as president, a caller tried to force her to resign, threatening to give false details about her personal life. “Yes, men face resistance and we see that in politics, but it’s a different kind of warfare used against women.”

She attributed her attitude to her father, who encouraged her to speak her mind, and to her Italian background more broadly.

“Everyone tells everyone when they think they are right or wrong. You can generate so much passion and argument on the smallest issue, but it’s all OK. It’s okay to have a fight,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a predominantly Australian trait.”

As leader, Germano has wrought small but impactful changes in the Federation. Cucinotta’s doubts about being vice president while pregnant or caring for a newborn were quickly dispelled; Germano said she’s also on the lookout for bright young women in the organization to make sure they don’t miss opportunities.

A personal highlight for Germano was a recent branch meeting in Dederang, a small town in northeast Victoria. Not only were there many young people in the room, but mothers had brought their babies.

“That was a really strong moment for me,” she said. “I really thought, ‘That’s what I’m doing this for.'”

“The community owns the Victorian Farmers Federation. It just brings more joy and a sense of family and community to a group of people coming together… [to] talk about what farmers need.

“It’s not because we did anything differently; it could just be that there is a sense of change and you now see two young women. Maybe that’s what someone has in mind, why they show up or why not.” Farmer Emma Germano is now leading one

Brian Lowry

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