Mary the unsung cotton hero

Spray drift and mental health advocate Mary O'Brien recognised


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Mary O'Brien accepts the 'unsung hero award' at the recent Darling Downs Cotton Grower of the Year awards held at Wellcamp Airport. Picture Ange Sterling Photography.

Mary O'Brien accepts the 'unsung hero award' at the recent Darling Downs Cotton Grower of the Year awards held at Wellcamp Airport. Picture Ange Sterling Photography.

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Mary O'Brien recognised by Darling Downs Cotton Growers.

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You don’t need to talk to agricultural consultant Mary O’Brien for long, before you realise just how passionate she is about agriculture. 

Mary works as a private consultant conducting spray application and drift management workshops around Australia, and is also a myBMP (Cotton Best Management Practices) accredited adviser. 

She was recently recognised as a ‘unsung hero’ at the Darling Downs Cotton Grower of the Year awards. This award is very close to Mary’s heart, as she introduced it to the Dalby Cotton Growers Awards evening five years ago. 

“I was very surprised and humbled to be named as the recipient,” she said.

“I thought I was called upon to present this award as I normally do in previous years, and thought it odd when MC, Phillip Kelly, asked me to deliver my address on my ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’.

Her ‘Unsung Hero’ award not only recognised her work rural depression and suicide, but also her work with spray drift application.   

Mary’s passion for spray drift, application risk management, chemical use best practice is something she holds dear to her heart. 

She regularly conducts workshops in spray drift risk management, assists clients with record keeping and legislative compliance, promotes chemical use best practice, and is a strong advocate for all sectors of agriculture.

“I am really passionate about protecting the long-term access to key chemical groups,” Mary said

“They are not inventing any more chemicals, so I am hell bent on protecting those in the market place.  

“Without the use of 24D, no-till or minimum till farming would become nearly impossible, so this would not be the best way forward for sustainability and managing our soils,” she said. 

Mary said many farmers are trying to do the right thing when spraying, some just do not understand inversion.

“Once explained to them, they can identify when there is one, as I keep it simple,” she said.  

Her ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’ website and Facebook page was founded earlier this year.

“I saw country blokes facing challenges like never before, I needed to say something because I know none of them would,” she said. 

“I’m talking about rural men’s mental health and more specifically, rural male suicide. 

“Yes, that mongrel black dog sneaks in when you least expect it, grabs all of your rational thoughts, buries them somewhere you can’t find them, and without you or those close to you noticing, it gradually pulls you into a hole, a bog hole.”

Mary grew up near Bollon and has worked as a jillaroo, seed analyst, and laboratory technician, then an agricultural consultant. 

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