Concerns about the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project propelled Tourello farmer Katherine Myers to nominate for an advocacy role at the Victorian Farmers Federation - she's just been announced as vice-president for horticulture.
Ms Myers, whose family runs a potato, sheep, and crop farm, said the appointment was a surprise for her, with her background in agricultural research, valuations, and finance.
"I've always enjoyed going in to bat for people when they're in a pickle, and this seemed like a great opportunity to have a stronger capacity to do that," she said.
"I genuinely care about horticulture and what farmers are going through, so I'm excited to take this on as a formal role."
She has helped organise a community group to oppose the transmission line project in her district - Environmental Effects Statement studies are under way for the AusNet project, which is seeking to build high-voltage transmission lines from near Ararat to Melbourne's outskirts.
Farmers in the area of interest have been protesting against the project since its inception, saying it risks removing valuable agricultural land that has been farmed for generations.
Ms Myers said she was also part of AusNet's community consultation group for the project, and was unimpressed at how it had progressed so far.
"I think people are really frustrated, really scared, and they're getting really tired," she said.
"The process has been going on for a year now, and it's not going to stop any time soon - I know my mother-in-law described it as a great big storm on the horizon and you just don't know how much damage it will do when it does, or when."
The protection of agricultural land across the state is one of Ms Myers' priorities for the role, she said, particularly as regional cities continue to grow.
"There's a lot of pressures on high-value agricultural land, particularly in horticulture," she said.
"There's a reason our cities are founded where they are, on the best soil near good water sources, because that's how people fed themselves in the early days, but that now means as those cities and large towns expand, they're putting a lot of our best horticultural land under pressure.
"The drive through Miners Rest has changed so much, in not a long time at all."
Another major issue affecting farmers is succession - with an ageing population and massive investments required to enter the industry, it's a problem that will need to be addressed quickly.
"I'm really going to focus on succession planning and transition, and generational change in agriculture," Ms Myers said.
"There are so many barriers to young people getting into agriculture - myself, I didn't have any farming background until I started studying agriculture and working in it, but I was always aware the only way people can get into farming now is marrying into it or being born into it.
"I want to see that change, so I'm keen to work with the VFF to try and find some more novel options for people who don't have that family history in agriculture to get into farming."
There's a strong family connection to the area, Ms Myers said, which she is keen to continue.
"My husband's grandparents farmed at Dean for a long time, and they had two sons, so they were looking at succession plan options," she said.
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"This farm at Tourello came up, so my husband's uncle stayed at Dean, and his father came out to farm here.
"We grow certified seed, mostly for processing here in Australia, and a little goes to export.
"It's been a phenomenal season for potatoes - I know the cool wet summer didn't suit every horticultural producer, but you couldn't have asked for a better season for potatoes here in the central highlands."
Lake Boga organic fruit farmer Nathan Free was appointed as VFF horticulture president, after serving four years as vice-president.
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