• Sonia Ghiggioli

Women Supporting Women

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

As many of us can explain, no matter what your intentions are and the level of determination you possess when you add goals to your list, you can only manage what you can manage. We can do it all, just not all at once...

I have taken a couple years off blogging, but that doesn't mean I have not continued on my path by living a sustainable lifestyle, cooking and fermenting foods, growing organic vegetables and raising backyard poultry and planting more trees in the ground. In fact I have delved deeper into resilience building and creating a life for my family and myself that embraces my authenticity and nurtures those around me who share my ethics and values.

Over the past two years a great deal has changed for me. I prioritised myself by pursuing post graduate education. Educated women are natural changemakers so I leapt into a Graduate Certificate of Management with a major in Social Innovation. It is an AQF level of 8, one above a Bachelor Degree and often used to change from an industry based career to a vastly different career. I was able to choose 'wicked' global problems from an enviro/social stance and use a regenerative farming focus to make a case to solve these problems. Through my studies I discovered the last straw broom manufacturer in Australia was closing its doors as imported millet was uneconomical so I put together a business case for using native millet instead. You can read more about the story HERE. Exotic millet was grown throughout much of Australia and used in the booming broom manufacturing years, but noone had attempted using native millet instead. Such a simple idea that has been mirrored in the upsurge of native grain growing and processing for baking breads with Australian provenance. This desire for Australian grown and manufactured products has been further encouraged with the closing of borders and increase in import shipping costs which are also resulting in supply delays. There are many conversations yet to be had with the owners of the intellectual property surrounding Australian native foods and botanicals, but we are at the cusp of these discussions and there are many women and men who are willing to sit at the table and work out the best way forward. The future of foods with provenance in Australia is an exciting and worthy one to get right, given our history of co-opting so much from those who have not traditionally been able to protect their IP.

This qualification gave me an entry pathway with nested units into a Masters of Business by coursework at Central QLD University and I eagerly enrolled. I had purchased my textbooks and got a start on pre-reading when an opportunity to enrol in a Master of Applied Science by research presented itself. After a whirlwind interview, application submission and a trip to the Sunshine Coast to check out a compost biodigester pilot plant I was drafting a research proposal and begun study on 1 January 2020. In February we had a trip to Northern NSW to one of the most ethical family owned composting facilities I have had the good fortune to visit and the Professors and another masters student and I were thrust into Covid-19 news. It was on the front page of the newspaper each morning we sat together for breakfast and we read it aloud to each other with great interest. Being with a group of scientists gave a lot of insight into the potential ramifications of a global pandemic and how it may affect our everyday lives. And that it did...

We learned how to research remotely, the limitations of the internet when there were children being homeschooled at the same time (with the expectation that it would be facilitated by us who were studying), the frustrations of suspended university travel to conduct experiments leading to a re-write of my research proposal which required an enormous amount of emotional and scholarly pivoting and the patience that would be required going into the second year of lockdowns across the globe. The pandemic has spanned my two years of full-time research study thus far.

While many say we could never have foreseen this occuring, many in the science world disagree. With affordable global travel, monoculture indoor farms, and the demand for wild harvesting of 'lucrative' foods, there was always going to be an overlap of zoonic disease and humans. We have been pushing the boundaries of the environment for quite a few centuries now, but moreso in these past 100 years. I believe Covid has taught many of us to re-evaluate our priorities, and slow down. This poses well for our families, our communities and the environment, if we are able to adapt to the economic hardships we have had to endure. Fortunately economics (or lack of money) has often been a catalyst for change and with change comes courage and resilience. It is often at this exact moment that the opportunities present themselves and we need to make the decision whether we will explore them.

You may notice I have had a name change? Due to Covid, my darling husband and I brought our wedding forward, created a magnificent intimate experience for our family and used our savings for what we consider to be more important things. We made decisions that were not favoured by everyone, but they were right for us. Most importantly Covid-19 has taught me to prioritise myself! I have been forever giving up my dream to study based on the strong opposition from others, but I knew that the timing was right. I am in the throes of drafting my thesis chapters and journal publication manuscripts and have an end date clear in my vision.

There have been pivotal moments in my life and Covid has definitly been one. It has given me the courage to make decisions that require great fearlessness and to apply the change, to embrace opportunities when they arise. Just this weekend I had a panel position for the Australian Women in Agriculture virtual conference and enjoyed every moment of it. Women supporting women has led me to believe I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. This group of women have been integral in my personal and career development so if you are in remote, regional or rural areas and are looking to join a group of people to break the isolation you may have been feeling (as we all do), take a look at their website HERE. Even today I was broaching the subject of using compost pellets on broadacre farms while I was interviewed by Michael Condon from the NSW Country Hour and tpok the opportunity to speak on current topics for women in agriculture and demonstrate how to support other women in this field. You can listen to the podcast HERE.

I do hope you find your special niche in this slower world and embrace the most important things to you. I know I do!

Have a great day!


Sonia Petersen

The Barefoot FarmHer

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