The Bay of Plenty beckoned me with her blooms and fragrances as I stepped into the world of my host Cathy Brown. Right after landing we took to the first of many farm visits, tramping around the dairy and talking to the women who manage these productive grass based farms either independently or in partnership.
As I find everywhere, the social and family pressures of dairying were as abundant as the environmental and regulatory issues that plague any farm industry. At the Dairy Women’s Network, a group nearly 5,000 strong, we talked of our role as mentors for other women.
How at the end of the day our simply being part of the solution means hope. And while it is true that a woman carries responsibilities well beyond the farm, she remains capable and willing to foster personal and business growth. Our international survey on women in agriculture indicated that women seek both personal and business growth as an outcome to mentorship – and that is an important message. As mentors it loudly proclaims our responsibility to the other.I meet with one of the greatest mentor figures in New Zealand, Ingrid Nza Collins, compliments of my host Sandra Faulkner. Ingrid is the face for Maori agriculture and culture in NZ. She is on the top of her game, working with corporate Maori farming models that now cover 1.5 million hectares. She is amazing in her own right but still seeking the growth and empowerment of women within the structure to take leadership roles. She said “I once thought that what was needed was education but now see that it is also empowerment.”
Today I will be speaking to 16 year old girls to inspire them to be all that they were born to be for themselves, their families and their communities. The complexity of leadership calls for an orchestra of thought and action. As women in agriculture we need to be proud to say “I am a farmer” because it is a truth. Regardless of how our farm is orchestrated – be we in the front or in the back – we contribute to the symphony of good business because we all have many strings in our bow.