For the past two and a half years, Susie Murphy White has been an Industry Project Manager for Pomewest, where she has established a reputation as the go-to technical expert among WA apple and pear growers.
Her instrumental advisory role in the Future Orchards® program, unflappable enthusiasm, expertise and commitment to helping WA pome fruit growers add value to their businesses in that role was recognized in June 2018 when was awarded APAL’s 2018 Award for Excellence – Women in Horticulture.
Susie’s was an unconventional route to the industry: before finding her passion in the apple and pear industry, she had spent most of her professional life in natural resource management, which included farm planning, salinity management, and revegetation for biodiversity in WA’s wheatbelt.
“Growing up on a wheat and sheep farm, I’d spent most of my time giving recommendations to fill dry dams and reclaim salty land in the eastern wheatbelt – who knew it would lead to apples in WA’s South West region?” she said.
Today, Susie’s dynamic role ensures no two days on the job are the same. Through the Future Orchards initiative, she works closely with WA growers to equip them with practical, hands-on tools to boost fruit quality and productivity, as well as competitiveness on the world stage. Susie visits orchards to share cutting-edge industry insights and conducts trials and demonstrations with growers.
“It’s just so important that we get out of our office and get into the orchard to make sure what we are doing is real,” she said. “I love working with growers and seeing changes to management practices that improve their orchard production, profitability and sustainability.”
Susie’s Pomewest role also sees her connect orchardists at the forefront of innovation with industry events, on both a local and national scale. She believes that community ties are at the core of the WA pome-growing industry’s ongoing success and relishes the opportunity to catch up with growers in her day-to-day work.
Recent events have included a tour to delivery centres and Market City [Perth’s wholesale fresh produce market] to follow the fruit’s journey through to the consumers, and leading a study tour to New Zealand with consultants AgFirst. Susie mentored the group of nine young growers – three of whom were women – on a tour of the country’s leading orchards.
“The objective of the New Zealand study tour was to transfer orchard technology to Western Australian pome fruit growers, by feeding conversations among growers and changing practices in our industry. There is a generational shift in some WA orchards and this was an opportunity to encourage future orchardists to identify and develop skills and techniques that can be adapted to their circumstances,” Susie said.
“It was an awesome opportunity to visit both Steve Sparks and Ross Wilson in their patch and see for ourselves what the New Zealand orchards were like and understand what the AgFirst consultants were talking about at the Future Orchards walks when they visit WA.”
This New Zealand tour also speaks to Susie’s passion for encouraging and engaging young women who are carving out careers in horticulture – a traditionally male-dominated space.
“Visually, it has been a very male-dominated field, but behind the scenes, women in orchard businesses are the ones who support and make the orchard run the way it should,” she said.
“They have always been there – it is just great that they’re being recognised for the roles they do and stepping up to take on more opportunities.”
Susie is humbled to take on the role of mentor and prove to younger women in the industry that the sky is the limit when it comes to a career in horticulture. APAL’s 2018 Award for Excellence – Women in Horticulture is a satisfying reminder that when industry supports women, great things unfold.
“There are many women out there in the agricultural and horticultural industries whom I have looked up to, so it’s great now to be recognised as one of those women and know that others are looking up to me too,” Susie said.
“I’m just absolutely thrilled. It is very rewarding to be recognised for the work that I do. I’m very lucky to work with a great group of growers, the team at Pomewest and the apple industry who are just as positive about the pome fruit industry as I am.”
About the author
Freya Horton Andrews, Intern, Currie Communications, 03 9670 6599 or firstname.lastname@example.org