Although we may know her best for the magnificent mangoes she grows at JJ’s Farm, Jill Wilson from Karakin, has been recognised in the recent Australia Day Awards with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to conservation and the environment.
Even before she and John Reymond bought their farm 20 years ago, Jill worked in the region for the Department of Agriculture, after completing a PHD in Plant pathology and soil microbiology at UWA in 1984. She was an early pioneer in sustainable agriculture (before it became trendy) and was the Sustainable Rural Development Manager, Northern Agricultural Region, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, based in Geralton for many years.
She was a founding member of Northern Agricultural Catchments Council ( NACC) back in 1996 and contributed hugely to the organisation as Board Member, Director and Chair until 2017. Around the same time she was one of the founders of the Rural, Remote and Regional Women’s Network, a not-for-profit communication network for inspiring and connecting regional women, with a 21-year history of championing the role of women in our communities and advocating on their behalf.
She has been involved in countless organisations supporting regional growth, including WA Landskills, Moore Catchment Council, West Midlands Group, Dorper Sheep Society of Australia, WA Livestock Research Council and Southern Mango Grower Group.
Although her contributions to these organisations is most worthy of acknowledgement, it is perhaps her support of the next generation that has earned her this recent recognition.
“I’ve planted a lot of trees in my time and dug a lot of holes, but I’m also a person who has worked on attracting funding,” Jill says. “I’ve always believed in supporting the next generation too.”
Grain and potato grower Bronwyn Williams Fox worked with Jill at West Midlands Natural Resource Management Group ( now West Midlands Group) during her early days living in the region and says Jill was a reliable source of encouragement. “Jill has a wonderful leadership style that makes you feel valued. She is always supportive, yet can be relied upon for her honesty and constructive criticism,” said Bronwyn.
Jill has always loved caring for the environment and describes herself as an outdoorsy person. Her ‘semi-retirement’ project alongside John has been the development of their 80 ha property 15km east of Lancelin where they tend to their 2000-odd mango trees and a select breeding flock of White Dorper sheep.
Chuffed as she was to receive the award, Jill says there are many others in the rural community doing wonderful things who also deserve recognition. “Lots of people deserve an award, but it’s just down to who gets nominated. I don’t know who nominated me – but on a personal level it’s lovely to be noticed for what you are doing.”
You’ll find Jill busy picking mangoes this month as their crop is on the cusp of ripening in the next two weeks. Local mango lovers can buy their fruit direct from JJ’s Farm at 407 Sappers Rd, as well as from the back of John and Jill’s ute as they join other local growers at the Bindoon Primary School Fete and Mango Festival on 16 March. They are looking forward to sharing their love of mangoes with the local community. “People do love mangoes and we love them too!” says John.