Tree-changer a trailblazer

Melissa Connors been named a finalist in this year's Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award for her innovative project, This Farm Needs a Farmer.

Melissa Connors been named a finalist in this year's Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award for her innovative project, This Farm Needs a Farmer.

A project to connect local tree-changers with experienced farmers may have begun on a small farm acreage in Kyneton but it has since soared to state recognition.

That project is This Farm Needs a Farmer - and its pioneer Melissa Connors has been named a finalist in this year's Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award for her concept.

Since launching the model about one year ago, Melissa has linked many new and inexperienced property owners with retired farmers to share the knowledge needed to get them on their feet.

More than 250 names have been added to an expanding network that has now grown to incorporate people beyond the Macedon Ranges.

"A lot of people want to connect to their community but they just don't know how to sometimes. People are now coming to me for help with all sorts of things, from farm fencing to building chicken coops," Melissa said.

"We have heard from people who are just thinking about moving to the region and those who already have and they might be overwhelmed or wondering if they have made the right decision.

"That's what we're here for: we're their safety net for if they are willing to get their hands dirty and learn something new."

The concept has worked because Melissa has lived it herself.

After moving to a 10-acre property in Kyneton with her husband and children for a lifestyle change in 2012, Melissa quickly discovered their limited knowledge and experience was holding them back.

She reached out for help after striking a friendship with a neighbour and retired farmer who was willing to offer invaluable advice.

Melissa aims to strengthen This Farm Needs a Farmer and see these kind of connections help even more people, promoting sustainability and ethical treatment of the land.

"People have really appreciated that this help is here for them and it skips that step of 'having to find your own way'," she said.

"I want to take this model state-wide and national. It's a portable model that can work in every community."

Melissa will host the first This Farm Needs a Farmer field day on March 18 where people can talk to local farmers, learn invaluable information and link up to the project network.

The Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award winner will be announced on March 20 and will receive a $10,000 bursary for their project. A national winner will be announced in September.