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HEYWOOD farmer and red meat producer, Georgina Gubbins is a passionate advocate for the local food and fibre industry.
With over 20 years of experience, she hopes to use her role as Food +Fibre Great South Coast chairwoman to promote and champion the industry.
Ms Gubbins has now been part of the organsiaiton for seven years now and joined when she was approached to head a producer group across all commodity groups to drive the push for a strategic plan to be developed for the region.
She said initial discussions commenced in 2012 with the Great South Coast Board and Regional Development Victoria when they confirmed funding would become available for the region, if it worked as a team.
“The dairy industry was initially involved but saw that they needed to involve the other commodity sectors to have a more united regional voice,” she said.
“There are now group representatives from aquaculture, wool, cropping, timber, dairy and livestock, the associated service industries, and from that we undertook an economic analysis to work out what food and fibre really meant to the region.”
Ms Gubbins said the food and fibre sector underpins over 60 per cent of the regional economy, making up for around 20 per cent of jobs.
She said the region has enormous potential as well as an economic imperative to grow the value of food and fibre output.
“People don’t realise that the south-west is the number one producing region in Victoria, and we have consistently been in the top three nationally and that’s how important we are to the Australian economy,” she said.
“We are trying to optimise the impact and unlock the value and capacity of the region’s food and fibre industry.”
Ms Gubbins said the organisation is now focusing on optimising impact and unlocking the opportunities to grow the value and capacity of the Great South Coast’s food and fibre industry.
This will be done by concentrating on three strategic platforms to foster regional growth and capacity.
Specifically, driving regional value add, investment and sustainability, foster best practice, innovation and capacity building, nurture food and fibre careers and realise the water opportunity.
Holding many industry sector roles within her career, Ms Gubbins also has a master’s degree in Agribusinesses which concentrated on the global red meat industry.
The Great South Coast Food and Fibre Council is the representative body for food and fibre in the Great South Coast.
The organisation champion food and fibre as the pathway for ongoing prosperity and wellbeing of regional communities.
NOT always referred to as a farmer, Ms Gubbins originally started her career in nursing, working in the profession in Warrnambool, Queensland and Melbourne.
In 1994, a change was needed, and Ms Gubbins found herself moving to the Western District to assist on the farm with her partner at the time.
Soon after, Ms Gubbins took on all responsibilities of running the farm where she raised her children.
“It was a big learning curve when you’re doing it yourself and I really had to have an open a mind and positive attitude that anything was possible,” she said.
Overcoming gender barriers, Ms Gubbins said it was initially tough becoming an independent female farmer.
“Looking back 30-40 years and females just weren’t farmers, they didn’t have that identity,” she said.
“It is much better than it was and in the last 20 years I have been farming in my own right and you know the odd person does notice but it’s much less frequent now.
“In business you need to be open to doing things better, which means you are always learning and looking to improve , It’s important to keep educating yourself and being future focused.
With over 20 years of experience in the food and fibre industry, Ms Gubbins hopes to encourage younger people enter the thriving industry.
“There have been some loud negative voices for too long in the industry, which has resulted in people not wanting to come into the industry, and there is now a skills shortage,” she said.
“It is a vibrant, technological focused industry for the leading businesses and we need younger people and new ideas to progress the industry into the future.
“We want to encourage as many people as possible to get into the industry because it’s really great and there are so many opportunities available.”
FOOD +Fibre Great South Coast chairwoman, Georgina Gubbins hopes to encourage younger people enter the thriving industry.