THE BEGINNINGS of WOMEN IN FARMING ENTERPRISES INCORPORATED
The year was 2009. Around a kitchen table in the WA wheatbelt, sat five women with a desire to share various farm management issues and challenges they had come across and learn from each other. None were sure how the discussion would unfold but before long ideas were flowing and the room was abuzz with the sharing of thoughts.
This original group of women knew they were not alone in their desire to learn, help one another and improve their businesses. They along with others as initial members, had the foresight to look to the future and define the model that we know as Women in Farming Enterprises Incorporated. This dynamic network now spans across the state, supporting branches and members who are committed to their businesses, supportive of their communities and enthusiastic about the opportunities they see.
Varley WIFE was the first group to activate in 2009. It functioned as a branch and the members spent time developing the systems and processes in use by branches today. The years between 2009 and 2012 were the formative years when meeting formats were trialled, topics chosen and aspects of meeting organisation and protocol, were assessed.
Born out of an idea to promote WIFE during those early years, the first Seminar was held at Varley in 2012. The organising team applied for a grant and in spite of no confirmation of funds, ‘…continued to plan for this excellent event...’. Its aim was for participants to gain ‘an experience that is Relevant, Informative, Unique, Different, Profound, better than they had expected, better than any other day like it.’ What an aim and what an achievement!
The excitement of the 2012 Seminar lead to the decision to incorporate WIFE so Varley WIFE discussed ideas for an organisational model and potential growth. Very committed members Anna-Lisa Newman, Lynette Gittos, Naomi Barrett-Lennard and Rosie Sinclair, put in the hard yards, including a weekend in Hyden, to develop the branch-based constitution model under which WIFE now operates. With the process finalised, incorporation of WIFE was formalised on 13th March, 2013.
The four Varley ladies mentioned earlier, went on to develop an information pack for branches and the committee travelled to other towns sharing the concept of WIFE. Many women helped in various ways during the process of forming WIFE Inc which allowed the vision to become a reality. 2014 saw three new branches form - Ongerup, Lakes and Cranbrook. Following the establishment of these, additional branches sprang up.
Varley WIFE hosted the Annual Seminar in the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 however with the network expansion, it was time to hit the road and move the location of Seminar. West Arthur Branch stepped up to become the 2016 host branch with the Seminar held in Darkan.
Initially Women in Farming Enterprises found funding in the form of grants and donations from very generous local businesses. Following the incorporation of the group, the committee set about seeking sponsorship for the entire organisation. It was thought a key factor in aiding branches to be successful was the ability to keep to a minimum, the amount of fundraising and administration they were required to undertake. Women In Farming Enterprises Inc. is most grateful for the support of all past and present sponsors.
Where are we now? The last four years has seen the WIFE network expand from one branch and 30 members to 14 branches and over 200 members. The upward trend continues!