Former dairy farmer Suzie Jacobs is passionate about helping the dairy community create a positive narrative for the future.
Living for the past 10 years in Ballendella, Mrs Jacobs wants to "plant the seeds of possibility" to enable the community in times of challenge.
“From challenges, comes opportunities,” she said.
“I want to share that mindset.
“I want to help the community build capacity and resilience to change; to seek alternatives which help keep the community alive and vibrant.”
Mrs Jacobs said Lockington, which is near Ballendella, was a "wonderful, proactive community" which had faced its share of adversity: drought, flood, low milk prices, diminishing number of family farms, and now COVID-19.
Mrs Jacobs has planted her own "seeds of possibility" by undertaking diplomas and a leadership program to increase her ability to do more for her community and the dairy industry.
Describing herself as a "natural introvert", the mother of three is glad she stepped out of her comfort zone to participate in the 2020 Loddon Murray Community Leadership program.
“I applied for the program for personal growth, to become the best person for me and my community,” she said.
Sponsored by Gardiner Dairy Foundation, Mrs Jacobs has found the leadership program "life-changing".
“As I drove away from the opening retreat in February, I said goodbye to my inner critic and welcomed my inner coach,” she said.
Mrs Jacobs said a common theme for effective leadership was the importance of self-reflection and appreciation of other people's communication styles.
“I am a lot more self-aware,” she said.
“A lot of the presenters have spoken about leaders needing to know themselves.
“Now that I am starting to understand myself, I can work on leading my community through change.”
Mrs Jacobs, who is the East Loddon Food Share Program vice-president, has learned to understand and value her innate style of leadership.
“I see myself as a seed planter,” she said.
“I am not a person who leads from the front, I push from behind."
While employed as Rural Aid community representative last year, Mrs Jacobs encouraged rural communities to apply for the Tens Town Makeover, a $100,000 grant for town development.
“I promoted the grant in a lot of towns, but not everybody was interested,” Mrs Jacobs said.
“I went into a business community meeting in Lockington and told them about the grant, and they applied.”
To Mrs Jacobs’s delight, Lockington Business Group was among Australia's 10 successful grant recipients.
“When Lockington received the grant, the business community was so thankful to me, and I said ‘I didn’t achieve this, you did all the work; you submitted the application, I just gave you the idea'.”
Prior to the Rural Aid role, Mrs Jacobs and her husband were three years into operating a dairy farm when the 2016 milk price crisis hit.
They made a business decision four years later to cease operation.
“Our business was in its infancy, so it was quite hard,” Mrs Jacobs said.
“I looked at it as we didn't fail, but what could we do better?”
For Mrs Jacobs, doing better was advocating and supporting farmers through Rural Aid.
Now she plans to support her community in more ways through the lessons learned in the 2020 Loddon Murray Community Leadership program.