Fiona forges path as business leader
FIONA May doesn't have a farming background, but is forging her own path in the sustainable agriculture industry on the Downs.
Her work has been recognised with a nomination in the prestigious Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women's Network Strong Women Leadership Awards in the business category.
Mrs May is one of 14 finalists across the four categories of business, professional, community and volunteer.
Starting up her ethical farm From Paddock to Potager was a leap of faith for the mother of two but one that's allowed her to turn her passion into her livelihood.
Since 2009, she's worked to transform her family's four-hectare allotment into an educational, on-farm experience for children and adults alike.
"I was told to start with a hobby farm but I really wanted it to be bigger than Ben Hur - it was definitely a leap of faith, no-one was really doing it," she said.
The future also looks bright for her second business, the more recently established Toowoomba Farmers' Market, which drew a crowd of more than 4600 to the inaugural event at her Cawdor farm and will change venue to the Toowoomba Showgrounds.
Mrs May grew up on the New South Wales coast in Terrigal before leaving to work for a finance company in Sydney.
"I hated it. I hated the busyness, the monotony," she said.
"I never wanted to be a person who worked at a job just because.
"I had a map in front of me and pointed on Scone and I thought, 'ok I'm going to Scone'. I was 20."
She lived in the country, met her husband and travelled around before ending up here where she lived on her husband's family dairy farm and had the 'aha' moment - "yep, this is it."
She never stopped believing in herself but has had to work hard to get others to believe in her farm and her vision for educating the community about where their food comes from.
"It's been a ride, I have all of these huge ideas, I want to take on the world," she said.
"I don't just want an animal farm; I want to teach people real-life skills and reconnect them back to their food."
For her, success in business and role model means being authentic, raw, real.
Having a plan also helps.
"You have to be strategic and focused," she said.
"Before I go to bed I write a list of what I want to achieve the next day. But I get up feeling excited, really excited."
QRRRWN president Alison Mobbs said the primary aim of the Strong Women Leadership Awards was to encourage women to identify and be recognised for the strengths they contribute to their community.
"We have had an outstanding group of women nominated for the 2015 awards," she said.
"Every one of the entrants deserves recognition and acknowledgement for her contribution; their communities are greatly enriched because of them."
The winners in each category will be announced at the 2015 QRRRWN conference gala dinner on September 5 in Biloela in Central Queensland.