Friday, April 12, 2024

Passion for farming, women’s empowerment

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Resilience is a liberally used term, but it certainly applies to Laura Douglas. The Southland woman has overcome her share of adversity but Neal Wallace discovers she refuses to let it beat her dream and passion for agriculture and sharing that passion with other women.
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It took just five days for covid-19 to wipe out Laura Douglas’ tourist business.

The first cancellation phone call from a tour bus operator representing her primary source of income came on the last day of the Wanaka A&P Show in March.

Laura says that until that call, she was on a real high.

Forward projections for her farm-experience tourist and events business at Kingston in Northern Southland showed three years of hard graft was starting to pay dividends with profits forecast.

She was buoyed by interest in her stand at the Wanaka show and discussions were well advanced with a second tour bus company wanting to add the Real Country farm-taster experience to their schedule.

But that changed with the call from the Contiki tour bus company telling her the covid-19 virus meant they were cutting operations.

“I didn’t see that coming,”she said.

“I was having the time of my life at the Wanaka show and not at all pessimistic about the future.”

The pins were soon being pulled on corporate bookings at Real Country.

“One by one over the next few days, cancellations rolled in,” she said.

“It took five days for all six months’ income to be wiped out.”

Douglas says she slipped into a dark hole, engulfed by the misguided view that because her business had failed, she too was a failure.

Life had previously thrown her some curve balls and while this latest one was an almost unplayable yorker, Douglas realised the way through was to keep pursuing her passion of farming and animals, and using those skills to teach young women.

But covid-19 has changed her perspective.

When she started Real Country, she wanted to create opportunities for women to help them grow in confidence, but she also measured success in the size of her bank account and assets.

“Now, my definition of success is all about the journey,” she said.

Success is also being measured in other ways.

“My life at the moment is amazing,” she said.

“My young dog is coming on nicely and my two old dogs are doing their job.

“I calved a cow last week and mouthed cows for the first time a few weeks ago and I lambed a ewe last week for the first time in 15 years.

“I love working on Fairlight Station.”

Douglas also wants to ensure other women do not repeat the mistake she made.

One reason she went to the University of Otago and pursued an academic career with a Bachelor of Science and MBA, was that she did not see a future for women in agriculture.

“Looking back, I cannot understand how a farm girl didn’t see an opportunity in farming,” she said.

“That for me is one of the big drivers of why I am trying to get this off the ground.”

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