The winner of the 2020 NSW-ACT AgriFutures Rural Women's Award has a big vision for small dairy farmers.
NSW Southern Highlands sheep dairy farmer Cressida Cains wants to create an online platform to help small dairy farmers produce branded products.
Mrs Cains and her husband established their Robertson, NSW, dairy farm Pecora Dairy 11 years ago. They specialise in sheep milk products, including a range of cheeses and yoghurts.
"I am passionate about the dairy industry, I am a farmer and a cheesemaker," she said.
"I am passionate about helping small dairy farmers transform their businesses and become more profitable.
"I would really like to support small scale dairy farmers and help them transform their businesses and produce branded product."
Mrs Cains was awarded a $10,000 Westpac bursary for winning the award and wants to use it to create Dairy Cocoon, an online platform and support hub.
The hub would help dairy farmers create business and marketing plans and access education resources and a support hub.
"In five years time I hope that Dairy Cocoon can make an impact on small dairy farms," Mrs Cains said.
"If we only save five dairy farms per year, so let's say conservatively speaking that's 25 small dairy farms, the modelling that I have done shows that has an impact of over 100 new jobs and also a total economic impact both direct and indirect of $112 million."
Mrs Cains said the coronavirus crisis meant now was an ideal time for dairy farmers to adapt, survive and thrive.
"COVID-19 will change people's buying behaviour forever, as industrial food systems are increasingly rejected in favour of local produce," she said.
She was also hopeful that her project would help turnaound the decline in the dairy industry.
"There are too many stories of multi-generational dairy farms who are closing their gates," she said
"For instance, just in my area of Robertson and Kangaloon, there are numerous dairy sheds that litter the landscape, where once there was a thriving dairy industry.
"As a full-time dairy farmer, it is really heartbreaking for me to see the decline of this industry."
But Mrs Cains believes there is an opportunity for dairy, particularly given the amount of cheese that is imported into Australia.
"I believe there is a bright and profitable future for dairy farming in this country."
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall congratulated Ms Cains on her award win.
"Cressida is an outstanding winner and is passionate about supporting small scale farmers to adapt and grow their businesses," Mr Marshall said.
"She will use her bursary to create an online platform and support hub that will assist dairy farmers to develop and produce their own unique branded products.
"I can't wait to see Cressida go on to contest the National Agrifutures Rural Women's Award later this year and I'm certain she will do NSW proud."
Mr Marshall also congratulated runner-up Tammy Galvin from Narrandera, who along with Ms Cains was selected from an exceptional field of nominees.
As a finalist, Ms Galvin will also receive a $1000 NSW Government Leadership Skills and Development Bursary.
Minister for Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor said the awards were a great way of acknowledging the essential role women played in regional NSW.
"It is fantastic to see women leading positive changes in industry in rural and regional communities through their unwavering courage, resilience and innovation," she said.
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