Lead eager to get out on farms

Janet Gregory is looking forward to supporting farmers in a newly created role. Photos: David Hill
Janet Gregory is looking forward to supporting farmers in a newly created role. Photos: David Hill
Janet Gregory likes nothing more than to support farmers.

She hopes to be able to make plenty of farm visits in her new role as extension services South Island lead, a newly created position with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

''I feel pretty privileged to get on some of the properties. There's a whole range of operations out there and every property is different and has a range of challenges that farmers are meeting, which is really inspiring,'' Mrs Gregory said

The extension service group has been established within the sustainable land use team at MPI, thanks to new funding of $35 million over four years in this year's Budget.

''We will work with groups of farmers to enable implementation and management of projects to support sustainable land use, improve farmer wellbeing and provide added value to production,'' she said.

''In some cases it is building on projects that catchment groups have started, but providing funding and support to meet new challenges.''

Mrs Gregory was working alongside Janine Alfeld, who previously worked as a senior investment adviser with MPI and supported Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough farmers in the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake through the Post Quake Farming Project.

She saw real opportunities to make a difference in sustainable land use to meet the challenges farmers faced.

''I'm heartened by what we are seeing from rural communities and the farmer-led approach which is getting results, and that's really exciting for rural New Zealand.

''There's real opportunities for funding and for farmers to lead these initiatives, and realising that not everybody needs to change, but looking at where we can improve and how we can help them meet those challenges.''

Mrs Gregory hailed from a sheep, beef and arable farm in the Taieri district, south of Dunedin, where her family continued to farm into the fifth generation.

When she left school she joined the New Zealand Forestry Service at Ashley in North Canterbury.

''In those days I was one of two women who started at the same time and we were only the third and fourth women to go through the course.''

She later worked with the Department of Conservation (Doc) in Rotorua in recreational planning and then advocacy work, before moving back to the South Island in the 1990s, with her husband Steve Gregory living in Oamaru, Outram and then Gore.

Mrs Gregory joined the New Zealand Landcare Trust in 2003 as co-ordinator of the Biodiversity Southland Forum, working with local councils, Federated Farmers, the QE2 National Trust, Doc and helping farmers access funding to protect native areas.

She helped to set up and support numerous farmer-led catchment groups throughout Southland and Otago, later moving to Canterbury as regional co-ordinator and Landcare's South Island team leader in 2017.

Mrs Gregory farmed a small block at Birch Hill, near Oxford, with the remnants of a Border Leicester sheep stud first registered in the 1890s.

-By David Hill

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