We’re celebrating International Women’s Day by sitting down with one of our favourite farmers – Jane Clout from Kooringal Oysters in QLD – for a quick chat about being a woman in male dominated industry!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS?
Pragmatic, honest, family focused, quiet and impatient!
TELL US THE LONG VERSION OF HOW YOU CAME TO BE AN OYSTER FARMER. WHERE HAS YOUR PASSION FOR OYSTERS COME FROM?
Growing up in QLD, I always wanted to be a ‘Jillaroo’. I considered applying for a Natural Resource Management degree at university but I wasn’t sure that was exactly what suited me. I ended up studying Physiotherapy in NSW and spent my early career as a paediatric physiotherapist with a focus on childhood development and cerebral palsy.
I traded this career to raise my children and ran all the admin in my husbands accounting practice for some time, which allowed me to stay flexible and stay at home with the kids. Around twelve years ago now we purchased an oyster lease in Moreton Bay and we became increasingly interested over time in how we could make it work as more than a passion project.
DID YOU STUDY ANYTHING SPECIFIC TO THE JOB YOU’RE IN TODAY?
I went back to University of QLD to study Marine Science part time to complete the science requirements, as growing oysters can be quite technical! I think the time spent running the farm is perfect hands-on learning.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAILY WORK ENVIRONMENT. I THINK A LOT OF US ASSUME IT’S PRETTY TOUGH ENVIRONMENT!
I actually don’t spend that much time hands-on, because it’s important to balance our production goals too. However, yes! It can be quite challenging and frustrating, especially given the physical elements and the need to get the job done in spite of the weather, tide, mechanical and equipment issues. But we make it work!
Moreton Bay in particular offers some challenges as it’s not a protected estuary and our leases are all intertidal – so if you miscalculate the time, you can be out on the lease for a long time!!
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST REWARDING THINGS IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
They don’t all relate to oyster farming, however those that do include creating local demand for Kooringal Oysters, developing relationships that have fostered that demand and recognition and meeting our goals.
My involvement with Select Oyster Company has been extremely rewarding for me, as we implement some significant changes. We focus on strategies which I continue to believe will provide production focused improvements and choices for farmers. I’ve greatly valued working with all the committed people who are been involved in the SOCo Board.
WHAT ARE SOME FRUSTRATIONS YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED ON YOUR CAREER JOURNEY?
Major frustration has been the slow process of gaining experience (also known as making mistakes!) in a field where the benefits of generations of farmer knowledge are significant. Mainly the difficulties and time involved in trailing new methods or lines of oysters while maintaining production models of a business.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I think not many people really understand how long it takes to grow a single oyster, for the intense, close levels of stock management required to make each order.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO WORK IN A MALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY?
I actually don’t think about it! You just need to get on with it an do what you need to do.
WHO ARE SOME WOMEN YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?
Politicians like Condoleezza Rica and Julie Bishop – both forthright and intelligent women who have effectively managed their careers on the world stage with quiet purpose and no scandal; Margaret Bourke-White, Vivian Maier, Annie Leibovitz and Simone de Beauvoir – all talented, strong women who have thrived in their respective creative industries. And many more!
I LIKE THE QUOTE “DONT’ JUST HAVE A JOB, HAVE A PURPOSE” – WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?
I haven’t really thought about that, but I will keep pushing and doing what needs to be done for Kooringal Oysters to continue thriving!