Review: Women of the Land by Liz Harfull

Title: Women of the Land

Author: Liz Harfull

Published: Allen & Unwin March 2012

Synopsis: Making your living from the land in Australia is not for the faint-hearted. Isolation, hard physical work, long hours and the vagaries of drought, floods and fire make it a challenging environment for any farmer. But how do you cope when you are a woman in what is traditionally a man’s world?  Women of the Land brings together the heart-warming stories of eight rural women spread across Australia who run their own farms, capturing their ways of life, their personal struggles and their remarkable achievements.  Often juggling the demands of raising a family, they have overcome tragedy, personal fears, physical exhaustion and more than a little scepticism to build vibrant futures that sustain them and their families.  Despite their diverse backgrounds, they all share several things in common ? genuine humility, a passion for farming, and a deep, spiritual connection to the land which sustains them.  This is the inspiring story of eight rural women and their remarkable everyday lives.

Status: Read from March 18 to 19, 2012 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Women of the Land is an account of eight women who live and work in rural Australia. These women, choose to run their own farms, some raise cattle or sheep, others grow fruit or crop, in isolated areas of Australia. Liz Harfull, herself the daughter of dairy farmers, bases these eight portraits on interviews with the women themselves, research, observation and conversations with family and friends. The women largely agreed to participate to promote awareness of rural life and farming in Australia.

Harfull introduces each woman by exploring their family background, childhood experiences and memories, tracing the path that led the women to choose rural life. Not all of the women Harfull features were born to farming life, in Nan Bray’s case for example, the American born marine biologist was an academic and executive before decided to breed Merino sheep in Tasmania. Mary Naisbitt inherited her farm when her husband died suddenly, leaving her with an 1828 hectare farm to run and four children under the age of seven to raise. Catherine Bird on the other hand is a ‘station brat’, raised on a cattle property near Alice Springs she now runs a 3000 square kilometer spread in South Australia.

Harfull has taken more of an academic tone towards sharing their stories rather than something more intimate which I would have preferred but each of the women have interesting stories to tell of their everyday lives. As farmers, these women are no stranger to adversity, successful farming relies on fickle weather which withholds rain for years on end, starving stock, only to destroy promising crops with vicious hail storms. Rural life is hard work with something on the station always needing attention from broken fences, to recalcitrant machinery or orphaned lambs, not to mention the endless reams of paperwork. Harfull includes a handful of anecdotes from each women that highlights the particular challenges of this way of life, a particularly vivid example is Catherine Bird’s accident that ripped much of her scalp from her head and almost killed her.

The eight women Harfull features are very different yet all have something in common, and that is their love for, and pride in, the land they surround themselves with. These stories provide a glimpse into the extraordinary lives of the practical, yet passionate, Women of the Land.

Available to purchase

Australia: @Allen & Unwin Australia I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia

International: Amazon US I @BookDepository

About the Author

Whether Liz Harfull is working as an author, public relations consultant or journalist, Liz Harfull’s passion is finding engaging ways to tell the stories of rural and regional Australia. As an author, she is focussed on capturing the lives, experiences and history of rural Australians and their communities through her writing and photography. As a journalist, she has been gathering up these stories and writing them for regional newspapers, specialist rural newspapers and magazines, and even the odd metropolitan daily for more than 30 years. As a Churchill Fellow and public relations consultant specialising in communicating information to rural audiences, she has used her skills to encourage farmers to take up best practice and the latest technologies, and to produce fibre and food more sustainably.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Australian Bookshelf
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 18:18:24

    I often dream of escaping suburbia for a country-lifestyle change and living on a property with nature and animals and no neighbours in sight (or to be heard for that matter- mine happen to be very fond of loud rap music to all hours of the morning!). Living rurally would be a big change for me and I think this book would provide a nice insight into a group of women who choose to live this way. I thought it would have been told more ‘memoir-style’ too, but it sounds like it was still enjoyable in an academic format.



  2. Julie @ Knitting and Sundries
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 05:40:17

    While this doesn’t sound like my normal sort of read, I’m rather interested simply because in another life, I’d like to be able to live self-sufficiently off the land. Thanks for the review!



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