Making the change from city to country life can be a challenging experience – just ask Melissa Connors.
That is why the Kyneton resident established This Farm Needs A Farmer, a platform that connects tree changers who have moved to the Macedon Ranges area with experienced farmers who can provide the knowledge and skills needed to manage their properties.
Her work in this arena has earned her a place as a finalist in this year’s Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award.
Mrs Connors said she was “humbled and honoured” to be recognised alongside other “amazing women” as a finalist.
Mrs Connors, husband David and two of their children (two more have come along since) moved to Kyneton from the outskirts of Melbourne in March 2012.
After moving from the city to the country, they encountered a few bumps along the road: they tried to run livestock on their property not realising the fences were not up to scratch, so some were lost; they only had one dam, which dried up with no rain; and they ran out of tank water.
It was from such experiences that This Farm Needs A Farmer was born, a bid to prevent others making similar – often costly – mistakes.
“The learning curve is steep and can be quite overwhelming at times,” Mrs Connors said.
Through the project, now in its fourth year, tree changers can ask questions and Mrs Connors will connect them with an experienced farmer who can offer assistance.
She said there was a big wave of tree changers moving into the area, and for many farmers, moving off the land did not always mean retirement.
Of utmost importance, Mrs Connors said, was respectful and sustainable treatment of the land.
This Farm Needs A Farmer was a “comfortable platform where no one is judged,” she said.
The winner of the Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award will be announced on March 20 and will receive a $10,000 bursary for their project, with the national winner to be announced in September.