Kate Shelby-James, Bringing Pilates to Farming Communities

This week the PAA is putting the spotlight on an innovative and inspiring community outreach program Pilates for Farmers now titled Core Strength- Pilates for Rural Living developed by PAA member Kate Shelby-James.

Congratulations to Kate for developing this program to address the needs of her rural community. Having grown up on a farm in the Barossa Kate understands the challenges of rural life.  The program has been running for 2 years and this year Barossa Pilates has partnered with BIGG (Barossa Improved Grazing Group) to revamp the program and provide subsidies for many farmers.

This is a wonderful project to share with our PAA community and we hope it may inspire and give confidence to others to reach out to their local farmers and rural communities. Let’s chat with Kate to find out a bit more about the program.

Hi Kate, can you tell us about your studio?

I have owned a Pilates Studio in the Barossa, SA since 2016, as owner-operator and the sole instructor for the first 4 years. After COVID, I started to take onboard other instructors to assist as my schedule was often fully booked with wait lists and demand exceeded capacity. Fast forward to 2024 and I now have three instructors teaching with me, one full-time, two part-time and an admin / PA assistant who also works part-time and works remotely from Sydney. In 2021/2022 we constructed a purpose-built studio and pride ourselves on the quality of our teaching with a clear focus to help our rural communities.  Pilates Barossa

Where did the idea for the Pilates for Farmers program come from?

The Farmers program was actually born out of a desire to give back to my local community after attending a PAA conference in 2019 where I participated in a workshop with Sherri Betz; she articulated in this workshop how important it is to give back to your local community and to consider working with a section of your community that you are passionate about – from there the Pilates for Farmers Program started to evolve.

I decided to make a conscious effort to work with farmers – people like my own Dad. Now in his early 80’s I have seen him and many rural men (and women) work physically hard over many years, exposed to the elements, working through the wind, rain, cold, heat, dust and throughout hard conditions. Often using their bodies to lift things that are too heavy, move things that should be moved with machinery or at least with the help of others, crawl into confined spaces to fix something that needs fixing now, and the list goes on.

How did you get started with the program?

Several years ago, with the help of one of my clients, we received an invitation to attend one of the Angaston Agricultural Bureau meetings to explain what Pilates is and how it may help them. We delivered some gentle examples of movement to the group and from this invitation and meeting, a relationship with Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) evolved.

This partnership has been key for us to connect with our ‘farmer clients’, create awareness of what Pilates is and how it can help. We have slowly built a solid client relationship with a group that may otherwise not have felt comfortable or confident in a Pilates environment and have been thrilled to deliver a regular Pilates class for Farmers as a result.

What has changed for the 2024 program?

Last year BIGG applied for and successfully received grant funding to expand this program including the engagement of a video photographer, media and delivery of some funds in the form of a subsidy for new clients. NB: The grant funding is BIGG’s and we are a partner in delivering the program.

What is next for The Core Strength: Pilates for rural living program?I am interested to see how we can tap into other rural studios to inspire them to work with third parties to deliver broader programs to benefit all rural communities.We have referred to the PAA at the end of the promo video to encourage potential clients who see the program but are not within our region to know where to look for a well-qualified PAA instructor.

Find out more:

The Core Strength: Pilates for rural living program is an initiative of Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) to help improve wellbeing amongst our rural communities especially when facing the challenges caused by drought. Accessible and beneficial to all ages and most fitness levels Pilates can enhance both body and mind health.

More info here Pilates For Rural Living – Barossa Improved Grazing Group (biggroup.org.au)


The Core Strength: Pilates for Rural Living program starts 15 July at Pilates Barossa.

The program will run as a series of 5 x 55-minute Pilates mat classes at 5pm Monday afternoons.

Participants are also welcome to join other classes that may be more suitable for their specific needs and/or availability.

BIGG and Barossa Pilates have a limited number of subsidised induction sessions available.

Check out some of the real-life stories from the local rural community

More about past programs: Pilates for Farmers – Pilates Barossa

Video on the program

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