Escalator programme provides next step up

Gimmerburn farmer and vet Rebecca Smith shares her insights at the Agri Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator graduation ceremony. Photo: Supplied
Gimmerburn farmer and vet Rebecca Smith shares her insights at the Agri Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator graduation ceremony. Photo: Supplied
Rebecca Smith is a wife, mother, farmer and qualified veterinarian.

She is now also a graduate of the Agri Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator programme.

Escalator is a leadership and governance programme for women involved in the primary industries and rural communities and is run by the Agri Women’s Development Trust. The Escalator programme equips women with the tools, confidence and support they need to successfully lead and govern in their chosen fields.

Each year, the programme receives around 80 applications from around New Zealand, which need to be whittled down to just 14.

Mrs Smith farms with her husband, Jason, and his family, on a sheep, beef and deer farm at Gimmerburn in Central Otago. They have two girls, Millie (3) and Emerson (2). She also works two and a-half days a week as a vet for VetEnt in Ranfurly.

Mrs Smith said the opportunity to be part of the programme came about through her work.

‘‘I was asked if I wanted to be a board observer on the VetEnt board and part of that is doing some professional development on governance. I knew this course offered that but I knew it also offered so much more.

‘‘I did the Understanding Your Farming Business course and then went on to the It’s All About You course, which I just loved. The Escalator course, I knew about, but to be honest didn’t put myself up at that level before my work encouraged me to look into it.’’

The programme covers five modules over the course of 10 months: building individual potential; leadership; governance; strategy and finance; communication and media training; and future direction.

Each module took her to Wellington for a week of intensive learning and development ‘‘with the best of the best in terms of mentors and facilitators’’.

‘‘I know I want to make positive change in the primary industry — where, when and how, I am not sure yet. The gem in all of this for me is the friendships and networks I have created along the way.’’

It had been a year of intensive study on top of work and family and farm life for her, she said.

‘‘But that’s how I like to operate. I am so lucky I have a village of support around me and Jason has been extremely supportive. If he sees I am passionate about something, he is open to letting me go for it ... well, most of the time,’’ she quipped.

-By Alice Scott

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