Monday, April 22, 2024

Meet the go-getter behind Meat the Need

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Co-founder of charity drive an example of the innovative women NZ dairy can celebrate on International Women’s Day.
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Siobhan O’Malley is a dairy farmer, innovator, businesswoman and community volunteer. A great example of the thousands of Kiwi dairy farming women throughout New Zealand who multi-task every day to contribute positively to their communities.

For O’Malley, there’s never a dull day – she’s also a high school teacher, president of her children’s gymnastics club and a small business owner. Her family enjoy being involved in sustainability initiatives.

DairyNZ GM Alyce Butler said International Women’s Day (on March 8) is a great opportunity to celebrate the amazing contribution of rural women across all aspects of Kiwi life.

“About one-third of dairy farmers are women and they contribute hugely every day to our sector, communities, local economies, schools, sports and sustainability initiatives,” Butler said.

“The dairy sector is evolving and becoming a more inclusive and diverse workforce with varying needs and wants. We’re developing new ways of working – different milking schedules, varied rosters and new technology – all of which support efficient farm systems and inclusive workplaces.”

O’Malley and fellow dairy farmer Wayne Langford co-founded the Meat the Need charity, which helps feed Kiwis in need so they don’t go hungry. Farmers throughout the country donate meat and milk, which the charity provides to foodbanks and other community groups dealing with food poverty in New  Zealand.

“Meat the Need is hugely successful. We’ve achieved more in three years than we thought we would in 10 years because farmers really got behind it,” O’Malley said.

“I get involved in my community in the things that I believe are really important and that I’m passionate about. By working together in our communities, we achieve so much more.”

O’Malley didn’t always live on a dairy farm. She grew up in Christchurch and graduated with a Master’s degree in classical studies. She met husband Christopher when he was a tour guide in the Abel Tasman and later in Dublin, Ireland.  They went dairy farming together after Christopher worked for his brother, who was sharemilking, and fell in love with it.

Dairy Environment Leaders chair Amber Carpenter is committed to a postitive and sustainable future for New Zealand dairy farming.

The couple own their own farm in Hokitika and enjoy teaching their children about farming and the environment. They plant native trees on their property, which give native birds places to rest and feed.

“With farming, I love being the master of my own destiny and the whole family is involved. Our children Finnian, 12, Aisling, 10 and Ruairi, 7, know more about running a business than I did at 18,” O’Malley said.

On the business side, O’Malley and two farmer friends she met at the Kellogg Rural Leadership course have created luxury knitwear company, Hemprino – an e-commerce start-up.

Hemprino is made from hemp fibre and merino wool. 

“The hemp fibre strengthens the merino and the knitwear is soft. It’s biodegradable, which is important to us – we believe everyone should be reducing their environmental footprint where they can,” O’Malley said.

South Auckland dairy farmer Amber Carpenter is also making a difference to her local community and New Zealand. After a career in fashion, she swapped high heels for gumboots to focus on the family farm with husband Fraser. She said farming is a great career allowing her to be at home with her children Oliver, 6, and Noah, 3.

Carpenter chairs the Dairy Environment Leaders – a network of 400 environmentally focused farmers created by farmers, DairyNZ and the NZ Farm Environment Trust in 2007. The network aims to empower leadership and create opportunities to support and share on-farm actions to reduce environmental footprint.

Carpenter said the opportunities and people in the dairy sector are amazing. 

“Farmers always have time to help others. They share ideas and give advice, and you know people are there for you should you need them. It’s great to be part of such a positive and engaging sector.”

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