Striving to give farmers a stronger voice 

Published: November 2018 | By: Anna Forsyth

"I want to give farmers a voice" says Alicia Harrison, NSW Farmers’ membership service manager who lives and breathes agriculture.

Alicia Harrison
IT’S tough to find a farmer today who isn’t diversifying with niche crops or clever processing – plus finding a second income stream ‘off-farm’. Alicia Harrison, NSW Farmers’ membership service manager, is doing all that. 

Alicia and her husband Luke live on a 200-hectare property, Kelburn in Tooraweenah, near Gilgandra in Central West NSW. Here, they run 300 Merino ewes and first-cross lambs, as well as a thriving 12-hectare olive grove, from which they produce a line of locally-renowned olive oils under the label 'The Crossroads’. 
READ about other farmers who have found success through diversification:
- Christmas tree farmer boosts business with space-age machine
Byron Bay dairy diversifies into farm tourism
- Third generation farmers switch from sheep to cropping 

Bag of olives in olive grove

Alicia’s experience on the land is invaluable for her role at NSW Farmers, as she understands the pressures members face when it comes to raising livestock, seasonal conditions, commodity prices and many other issues. “Luke is a livestock nutritionist, so we are immersed in the industry and understand animal welfare,” she says. 

Along with her farm work, Alicia has held roles in agricultural businesses since 2003, and started at NSW Farmers nearly 13 years ago as a regional services manager (RSM). 

“I love seeing what branches can achieve at a local level,” Alicia says. 

Alicia moved to her current role two years ago. As the membership service manager, she is responsible for attracting and retaining members, working closely with the regional service & sales manager Jonathan Tuckfield and the RSM team to develop and implement membership campaigns, and report and monitor membership statistics. 


Gunnedah AgQuip NSW Farmers team
NSW Farmers' were on hand to give advice at Gunnedah's AgQuip this year. Lining up here: (back row, from left): Matthew Waring, James Jackson, Anna-Kate McDonald, Daniel Brear, David Banham, Michael Collins; (front row): Alicia Harrison, Michael Burt, Alexandra Bunton, Jennifer Shillabeer and Cassandra Low. 

Alicia sometimes attends field days and other events, but she largely works remotely from the farm, which is also home to the couple’s two children – Jemima, eight, and Claudia, six. The rural lifestyle suits the family. After a very brief stint in Sydney, Alicia says she enjoys the work-life balance that allows her to spend time with her children and work on the land, as well as look after members, many of whom she has known for years.

“My father Rex Wilson, who has been mayor of Warren Shire Council for the past 30 years, really instilled in me the importance of playing an active role in your local community, which our members do so well. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know members from all walks of life and all types of commodities over the years. You are always learning something new,” she says. 

READ MORE stories on community efforts:
-  Bingara: A rural community success story
-  Coleambally farm run by volunteers
-  Country women pulling together

“It’s vital that we work with our older farmers and tap into their skills and experience. We also need to appeal to our younger members by ensuring we are relevant and up-to-date.”

“My job is to find that balance of respecting our history and protecting our future so that membership continues to be of value.” 

She believes that advocacy is vital in making sure that young people are attracted to the farming industry. “I want to ensure that regional and rural communities have a strong voice.” 

“We’d love to farm – so give us a break”

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