Like all great stories, Sarah Parker’s journey began with young love.
“My second date with my current husband was actually at the Brisbane Ekka to help someone show cows,” Ms Parker said.
“As a born, raised and educated city dweller, I had no idea I would end up on a dairy farm working in agriculture.”
That date and that farm led to a life full of opportunity, as Ms. Parker mentored promising dairy workers, served on industry boards and even spoke at the United Nations.
And now, to add to the list, she’s been named Rural Community Leader of the Year 2022.
A tree change
Moving from Queensland to the Goulburn Valley, Ms Parker faced a unique challenge.
“I don’t have kids, so if I wasn’t volunteering, how could I be connected to my community and my industry?” Mrs. Parker said.
“The traditional methods have always been the football club, the netball club and the schools.
“I have always worked in community development so I understand how important community is.
“But the first thing I learned when I moved to the farm was that in a rural community, the people are what makes that community thrive.
“Everyone should give their time and energy, because that’s what helps communities grow and develop.”
And it was this strength of community that came to her aid during her time of greatest need.
“My husband was nearly killed on the farm in 2009-10; he couldn’t walk for almost 12 months,” Ms Parker said.
“We actually had volunteers come to help out on the farm, and they were the people we had volunteered with a few years before.”
Raising the next generation
Despite years of service in almost every farm organization possible, Ms Parker said her biggest volunteering challenge was still a work in progress.
“My goal has always been to give back to young people and develop our next generation,” she said.
“I live to see the day when the next youngster comes along and kicks me out of my job!
“There’s been a lot of media lately about where our next group of volunteers are and how COVID has made it even more difficult.”
Ms Parker said it was no small hurdle to overcome.
“I think we have to realize that the next generation thinks differently than the current generation, they will have different skills and different passions,” she said.
“Our challenge is to give them the opportunity to learn and grow, I want the next generation’s path to be easier than the one we faced.
“We also want the generations who may not have shown an interest in dairy or cattle, as they bring a wealth of knowledge and a different perspective that strengthens the organizations we are involved in.”