TALLANGATTA’S Elaine Paton always thought she wanted to marry a farmer.
Instead she went on to become a well-known agriculturist herself.
The retired beef farmer and former president of Australian Women in Agriculture (2007-2009) has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia.
During her time as president she tackled the misconceptions of agriculture and the hidden idea that women were a part of it too.
Her award, for service to the rural community, recognises her work particularly as an advocate for the role of women in agriculture and through contributions to educational programs.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said of the award.
“I know my family will be proud and in many ways it’s because they supported me.
“I have had many trips away and my husband has always said ‘just go’.
“This has meant many meals from the freezer and he never once complained.”
Mrs Paton recalls once abandoning her family while on holidays in London to attend the third World Rural Women’s Congress in Madrid, Spain.
“I had attended the first conference held in Australia and the leaders of this conference were anxious and said they needed people from the grassroots,” she said.
“My family were very supportive of my decision to jump on another plane and help out.
“That started my passion for Spain and I have been three times since.”
Ms Paton is no stranger to awards, winning the centenary medal of Australia in 2001 and Victorian Rural Woman of the Year runner-up in 2005.
It was her thirst for knowledge and passion to help people in the farming sector that saw her join the Upper Murray AgCare Rural Counselling Service from 1993 to 1998, now Goulburn Murray Hume Rural Financial Counselling Service.
A management committee employed rural counsellors to work with farmers and their families in a time of financial hardship.
Mrs Paton is also well-known for her education programs, including the Step Out and Make a Difference leadership program for rural women that taught political and lobbying skills, as well as life skills.
“We had about 60 women turn up for the three-day live-in program,” she said.
“One of the women who attended from Rutherglen went on to run a program called The Next Step.
“I learnt a lot through putting the program together and in my life I think I am lucky to have had the experiences that I have and met the people who went on to inspire me and my life.”