Thursday, November 30, 2023

Schoolgirl farmer finds her happy place

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At the age of 14, North Canterbury’s Pieta Sidey has her own sheep stud.
Owning and managing a business has been a journey of determination and hard work for Pieta Sidey. Photo Annette Scott
Reading Time: 4 minutes

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, 14-year-old Pieta is the daughter of Andy Sidey and artist Anna Buist-Sidey, and is a boarder at Rangi Ruru. 

She heads into Christchurch on a Monday for school and is home on Friday to tend to her farming business. 

“I leave Dad in charge of my sheep during the week. He keeps me updated, lots of messages back and forward and photos, especially now with lambing,” Pieta says.

“I have loved farming my whole life, but I always thought that only boys could farm, so instead I got into horses.” 

It was helping to show the family’s stud stock at A&P shows that got her thinking.   

“I had struggles with people saying girls can’t be farmers and that it should be my brother holding the sheep at the shows. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I was older, I would say I wanted to be a farmer and they would laugh at me.

“It used to frustrate me quite a lot, sometimes I would get upset and angry. I never quite understood.

“When I was younger, I was always out on the farm with Dad, on the motorbike round the sheep and feeding out.

“Dad has always been extremely supportive. I thought it would be normal to farm with him.”  

Younger brother Harry was about to lose his place in the show ring – but that’s okay, he’s more interested in tractors and machinery than stock these days.  

After a few too many injuries riding horses Pieta decided to stop jumping and just go for quiet farm rides. 

“I had more free time and I always ended up helping Dad shift sheep and cattle and helping with drafting, lambing, crutching, drenching – everything I could really.” 

Pieta Sidey is now the proud owner of Mallochvale Stud, which began when she purchased four Corriedale two-tooths off her grandfather.

With dyslexia and anxiety, she has found school something of a challenge.

“I have always struggled at school, and I still do, but farming is my passion and the only thing that doesn’t bother me

“I don’t have to worry and it feels very normal for me home on the farm.   

“I fell in love with farming and have found I am always my happiest doing that.” 

At the age of 12, during the covid lockdown, Pieta happily bottle-fed 10 or so lambs and had the bright idea that she could breed from the ewe lambs. 

A call to her grandfather Doc Sidey sparked the beginning of her Corriedale stud.   

“I rang up my grandfather and asked to have a meeting with him. He’s 78, has been farming his whole life and still is at the moment.”

There was a condition to the meeting.

“He said he’d be there for a meeting only if there were scones, so I agreed of course.” 

Pieta proposed her plan. 

“He thought it was great, but he had an even better idea. 

“His idea was to sell all my bottle-fed lambs to my dad and with that money purchase four Corriedale two-tooths off him. They will be purebred Corriedales and will be able to have lambs that year.

“As I am a bit of an impatient person, I thought it was the best plan.” 

Pieta is now the proud owner of Mallochvale Stud, boasting eight Corriedale ewes and four ram lambs. 

She has the upcoming Canterbury A&P show in her sights to show her best ewe.

Her longer term goals are to increase the stud flock by four or five ewes each year and to “sell a ram of my own.”

Pieta says when she first started “I felt there was no female to talk to or look up to”.

“All I want to do is show young girls that they can do this no matter what.

“I would say to them just do it, be determined, make it happen. 

“I am determined, I made it happen and I just want to share these little bits of my life so if my ideas or my plans help anyone that’s all I want to do.

“People say to me that I am so lucky and yes, I am. I was blessed with a loving, crazy, caring, fun family. 

“I wasn’t lucky to have my own business. I am intelligent in my own way, I worked really hard for it and that’s not what I call luck; that’s what I call a lot of hard work and determination. 

“I put blood, sweat and tears into my stud and I still do, but I am extremely grateful for my family supporting me unconditionally.” 

Pieta is the fifth generation on the Sidey land and her biggest goal is to one day take over the family farm.

“I would be very proud to carry that on and share the same experience I have had with my own kids in the future.”

Currently the 730ha farming operation takes in a 60-40 mix of cultivated land and hill country running 80% sheep, including 300 Corriedale Stud ewes and 130 Poll Dorset stud ewes, with 20% cattle including the Jandoc Stud Herefords.

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