Thursday, April 25, 2024

Twelve months of women in ag

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March 8 is International Women’s Day, so we’ve put together a collection of stories we’ve covered over the past 12 months of women making waves in the food and fibre sector.
Owning and managing a business has been a journey of determination and hard work for Pieta Sidey. Photo Annette Scott
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Often hidden figures working their wonders in New Zealand agriculture, Aotearoa’s wahine are a force to be reckoned from the shearing sheds to boardroom tables. 

Here’s a collection of some of the women featured in Farmers Weekly over the past 12 months as we endeavour to celebrate the work they do in service of the sector.

Golden girls to represent NZ lamb at Farm2Fork (March 2023)

Sophie and Lucy Macdonald of Middlehurst Station are behind their family’s gold medal Middlehurst Station Deluxe Edition Premium Lamb Box.

The Macdonald sisters of Middlehurst represented New Zealand lamb at the Rabobank Farm2Fork Summit in Australia last year.

Middlehurst Station, a family-owned and -operated farm covering 16,550ha in the Upper Awatere Valley in Marlborough, is one of NZ’s original high country runs – ideal country to raise merino. 

Read more about them here.

Kate Acland appointed chair of New Zealand Meat Board (April 2023)

Kate Acland
Kate Acland was appointed as chair of the New Zealand Meat Board in April 2023, just a month she was elected chair of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. In both cases she is the first woman to fill the role.

Last year South Island farmer Kate Acland was appointed chair of the New Zealand Meat Board.
Acland, who joined the NZMB board in 2021, took over from Andrew Morrison, whose term concluded after serving on the board since 2014. She is the NZMB’s first female chair.

Read more here.

Fonterra 2023 Dairy Woman of the Year named (May 2023)

Fonterra 2023 Dairy Woman of the Year Donna Cram was praised by the judges for her ‘ability to see the big picture and then mobilise those around her’.

Fourth-generation Taranaki dairy farmer Donna Cram was named the Fonterra 2023 Dairy Woman of the Year. 

Cram, who is heavily involved in her community as the Taranaki Catchment Communities Inc chair and founder, is a DairyNZ Dairy environment leader, an ambassador for Federated Farmers and a Taranaki regional councillor.

Read more here.

Taranaki grower wins Māori ag’s top prize (June 2023)

Grace Rehu was named Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower of the year. Photo:

Hawke’s Bay’s Grace Rehu was named Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower of the year at the Ahuwhenua Trophy awards held in Tauranga last June.

The other two finalists in the competition were Alix Te Kere, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tu, Ngāti Maru, and Ngāti Maniapoto and Erica Henare, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Maniapoto. 

It was the first time in the history of the event that three wāhine Māori were selected as finalists. To mark the occasion, each received  $5000 from Te Tumu Paeroa in addition to other prizes.

Read more here.

Young farmer gets a buzz out of dairying (July 2023)

Georgia Young grew up on a sheep and beef farm and swore she would never set foot on a dairy farm. Fate had other ideas and she is now working on 580-cow farm at Maxwell near Whanganui.

The buzz from tending to hives and harvesting honey eventually wore off for Georgia Young, who decided it was time to get on with her studies. Throwing in her beekeeping job, she headed to Massey University in Palmerston North.

But she struggled to find a new buzz at university and decided to drop out after her first year to pursue something else. She landed a dairy farming job in South Taranaki, despite swearing from a young age that she would never set foot on a dairy farm.

Read more here.

New head for Animal and Plant Health NZ (August 2023)

Dr Liz Shackleton says she is excited about leading the organisation, given the critical role that healthy crops and animals play in safeguarding sustainability.

Dr Liz Shackleton has been appointed chief executive of Animal and Plant Health New Zealand. 

Shackleton has been leading the DairyNZ Biosecurity team, including the Mycoplasma bovis programme team, since 2018, and held leadership roles in the pharmaceutical sector after starting her career as a rural veterinarian. 

She is a chartered member of the NZ Institute of Directors and a board member of the NZ Veterinary Council. 

Read more here.

Schoolgirl farmer finds her happy place (September 2023)

Owning and managing a business has been a journey of determination and hard work for Pieta Sidey. Photo Annette Scott

Pieta Sidey’s love of farming started when she was just a toddler, but it wasn’t until she got older that she discovered a need to prove that a girl can become a farmer. 

Hailing from the sheep-farming district of Hawarden in North Canterbury, the teen farmer is the daughter of Andy Sidey and artist Anna Buist-Sidey, and is a boarder at Rangi Ruru. 

Read more here.

Humble beginnings fuel Jessie Chan’s success (October 2023)

Jessie Chan has learnt over the years that every farmer is different and even the grumpiest ones have something to contribute once you get past the gruff exterior.

Widely recognised as a leader in the dairy industry, Jessie Chan attributes much of her success to her humble beginnings. She was raised with three siblings by her sawmiller father after her mother left when Jessie was 10 years old.

“We grew up pretty quick.  We spent a lot of time with Dad on farms, picking pine cones and helping him stack timber. I did my first GST and PAYE when I was 14 because we helped him run the business.”

Read more here.

Honest Wolf wins top Rural Women NZ Business award (November 2023)

Hunterville-based Sophie and Sam Hurley started Honest Wolf in 2020 as a way to combat declining wool prices. Photo: Honest Wolf Instagram

Honest Wolf, a company producing wool-based luggage and accessories, has won the NZI Rural Women NZ Business Supreme Award.

It’s the first time the top award has been given to the winner of the Emerging Business category.

Read more here.

LouLou the Cow Whisperer: for the love of the herd (November 2023)

Laura Murdoch says her ‘LouLou the Cow Whisperer’ nickname came from her habit of chatting away to her cows.

A once accountant now award-winning dairy farmer and ag social media influencer-in-the-making talks shop and what keeps her well and going on farm.

Farmstrong caught up with Laura Murdoch, the “cow whispering” Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year for 2022. She shares how she manages the challenges of a job she loves. 

Read more here.

Cousins shatter women’s shearing records (December 2023)

Cousins Megan Whitehead and Hannah McColl celebrate their wins.

New world shearing record-holding cousins Megan Whitehead and Hannah McColl sure knew how to get the biggest season of tally-busting in New Zealand off to a big start when they shattered two targets.

Read more here.

From high heels to Red Bands (December 2023)

Hashini Cooke started her working career in banking and accountancy before switching to dairy farming.

Stepping out of a clean car in high heels and a skirt, Hashini Cooke quickly felt overdressed when she was greeted by a farmer fresh from the cowshed. 

That first farm visit was a real eye-opener. Cooke had no idea what she had gotten herself into, taking on an agri manager role for ANZ in Danneverke. 

But it was a pivotal move that led her to discover her true passion, dairy farming.

Read more here.

Nelson makes history at Silver Fern Farms helm (January 2024)

New Silver Fern Farms Co-operative chair Anna Nelson. 

Anna Nelson has become the first woman to chair a major New Zealand meat company, having been elected to replace Rob Hewett at the helm of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative.

Hewett announced his retirement after 10 years in the role and will step down at May’s annual meeting.

Nelson, who farms at Aria in the King Country, was recently unanimously elected to the role by the board.

Read more here.

Mullooly sets new world shearing record three days on (January 2024)

Catherine Mullooly averaged more than 58 sheep per hour in breaking the eight-hours strongwool ewe shearing record.

One of New Zealand’s most successful female competition shearers has smashed a world shearing record by almost 10 sheep an hour.

Shearing  at Nukuhakari Station in coastal King Country, in one of records-shearing’s most stunning displays, Catherine Mullooly set a new solo women’s eight-hours strongwool ewes record.

Read more here.

North Otago contract milker takes industry to task  (February 2024)

Employment conditions on dairy farms need to change to attract the next generation of workers, says North Otago’s Myfanwy Alexander. Photo: Supplied

Welsh-born Myfanwy Alexander is unashamedly blunt when she says the dairy industry’s greatest asset is under threat from poor and antiquated employment practices.

The North Otago contract milker and Federated Farmers branch president said unrealistic expectations for staff are causing burnout and deterring new workers from entering the industry.

Read more here.

Wairoa schoolgirl wins on first day of Golden Shears (March 2024)

Ashlin Swann first shore a full sheep in the Hawke’s Bay Show schools competition in October 2022, and has become a regular in competitions in the lower and central North Island.

A 15-year-old Wairoa College student claimed first bragging rights for the growing number of female shearers at the Golden Shears by winning the novice final.

Ashlin Swann, in Masterton with twin sister and fellow novice shearer Shawna, brother and 2020 novice winner Ryka, and their father, wool-presser and open-class shearer Paul Swann – leaving mum Sonya at home to run the Ardkeen farm – was one of five Hawke’s Bay competitors who made the final six.

Read more here.

Happy International Women’s Day, NZ!

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