Lifting minds and spirits

Farmer Carly Noble holds a newborn lamb in the paddock

*This story includes sensitive themes about mental health. If it triggers concerns with you, please seek professional medical advice or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Farmer Carly Noble had a plan for 2020 to develop a digital marketplace for Central Victorian producers. She was hoping to develop the idea as a participant in the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program, part of the Victorian Rural Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program (the Leadership Program).

However, said Carly, “When COVID-19 arrived, I had to pull the pin on the digital marketplace idea for a while.” Instead, a new project took its place. A fellow farmer in New South Wales said he was battling mental health issues due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Carly decided to send him a hamper of non-perishable produce as a sign of her concern and support.

Just over six months on, Carly and a group of volunteers, working together as The Agri-Food Network, have posted and delivered more than 600 mental health gift hampers to people doing it tough, with the support of Bendigo Salvation Army and more than 700 rural businesses. Hampers have reached nominated local and interstate people, hospitals, schools and aged care homes. “The project ran off just $1800 and the goodwill of people in rural communities,” says Carly.

A beef, sheep and wool farmer, Carly is one of 24 rural women connected to agriculture who have upskilled and grown community involvement and networks through funded places in the Leadership Program. “Everything I’ve learned this year, I’ve taken across to the hamper initiative,” says Carly, who is a finalist in the 2020 Regional Achievement and Community Awards.

The Leadership Program is open to Victorian-based rural women connected to agriculture or the agriculture supply chain who are keen to step up into leadership positions. Funded places are available in 2020 and 2021 on leadership programs catering for emerging to experienced leaders.

The Network has increased the number of funded places on offer and moved 2020 program delivery online to make it more accessible. Additional funded places are available on Leadership Victoria’s new two-day virtual program, Women Leading Now, for mid-senior leaders who are time-constrained.

Funded places on Regional Leadership’s programs for emerging leaders are open now and later this year, including Goulburn Murray Community Leadership Program (open now until 30 October) with Ballarat and Western Region and Wimmera opening later this year.

Until restrictions allow, programs will be delivered online. For more information and to apply, go to If you have a question, email [email protected].

Pictured above: Farmer Carly Noble, recipient of a funded place through the Victorian Rural Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program, is using her skills to support her community. Photograph courtesy of Bendigo Advertiser, 24 July 2020

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