IRIS HERRMANN with her 3 children_credit The Irrigator_1200_h678_fmax[100]
The Murrumbidgee

The Murrumbidgee

Fast Five with Iris Herrmann, rice grower and Honorary Councillor of the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA)

We’re delighted to bring you a special edition of Fast Five for International Day of Rural Women. Today we celebrate rice grower Iris Herrmann.  Iris was made an Honorary Councillor of the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) in August of this year. It’s a testament to the contribution she and her late husband, Alf, made to MIA’s rice industry, of which she’s an unceasing advocate. She and Alf have passed this passion on to their three children and five of the grandchildren who are active rice growers today. In 1968, the Herrmann family was awarded an Official World Record for production exceeding 4 tonne/acre across their Murrami farms. Earlier this year, her grandson Peter was named RGA President.

 Iris has volunteered in the community for many years. In 1949, she became the inaugural President of the Murrami CWA and is a current member.

Iris spoke with us about her life in the Murrumbidgee and her links with two of its major commodities.

Photo credits: Main of Iris (at front) with her three children, Margaret, John, and Ray – thanks to The Irrigator; inset of Iris in her garden – thanks to the Herrmann family.

Congratulations on becoming an Honorary RGA Councillor. Could you tell us about your work with the rice industry?
Thank you; it was a big surprise. I’m currently a rice grower and have been an active rice grower since I married Alf in 1945. When he died in 1999, I began share-farming with my son-in-law and then with my grandson Peter.

This year will be 21 years since Peter and I started growing rice together. You’ve got to feed the world, and it makes me very proud that Peter and I are able to do it together.

How did you become a rice farmer, and what did you do before that?
I started rice farming when I married my husband. His father grew rice in the 1920s when you could first grow it in the area, and Alf grew it until he died in 1999; he loved growing rice. In those days, I didn’t work on the farm; I ran the homestead and raised our family. Back then, the machinery wasn’t what it is today, and you had to have men helping with it. You’d have men staying to work at harvest who you’d feed three times a day; that kept you out of mischief. It was a busy time.

Before I married my husband, I worked at the Letona cannery. When I was 17, I moved to Leeton from Boorowa during the war years when they were looking for workers to can stone fruit. I lived in a dormitory near what is now Woolworths and worked every day at the cannery or the vegetable dehydrator (see question 4).

What do you love most about what you do?
I love growing rice – it’s always a joy to see it grow – there’s nothing nicer. I love it when it’s green and then when it’s nearly ripe and goes a fawny colour – that’s so pretty.

I enjoy the companionship of the CWA and meeting up with the other ladies every month. In the early days, unless they were in the P&C, you didn’t get to see them. You didn’t run off to town every other day like you could today. The roads were terrible, and we had petrol rationing following the war; you only had so much petrol, so you had to watch what you were doing with it.

What is something surprising about the work you’ve done?
Some people might not know that a dehydrator was built in Leeton during the Second World War. This was used for dehydrating vegetables that were sent to the troops overseas. We’d dehydrate root vegetables as they were easier to export and then be sent abroad and rehydrated for the troops to eat. I’m told they didn’t like them very much!

What do you love about the Murrumbidgee?
The Murrumbidgee River is our lifeblood for the area. It was our main place that we’d go for relaxation, for a picnic, and sometimes we’d camp in tents. We had our favourite riverside spots that we liked.

The region’s developed a lot since I’ve lived here. The roads have improved so much. Years ago, we used to get bogged from our place to the school as there were great big ruts in the road; well, it was a track. My husband used to throw little hay bales in the ruts so we could drive over them rather than get bogged. You had to learn to drive on a slippery road.

Is there anything else you would like to share or add?
I suppose things were hard in those days, but you lived it, and you didn’t take any notice. You just got on with it; life was the same. We didn’t have the conveniences, that’s all. What you don’t know, you don’t miss, they say. Everyone was in the same boat.

 

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