New Young Farmers CEO is excited to make her return to agribusiness

Lynda Coppersmith has been appointed chief executive of New Zealand Young Farmers. Photo: Supplied
Lynda Coppersmith has been appointed chief executive of New Zealand Young Farmers. Photo: Supplied
Lynda Coppersmith is dusting off her gumboots as she makes a return to the primary sector.

Ms Coppersmith (48) was recently appointed the first female chief executive at New Zealand Young Farmers.

She is presently a Christchurch-based senior account manager with accounting software company MYOB.

Prior to that, she worked for DairyNZ, was a business development manager for LIC, and an area manager for Fonterra.

"I’m very excited, it’s a great opportunity to get back into the primary industry and agribusiness," she said.

NZYF has a network of almost 80 clubs, runs the FMG Young Farmer of the Year, and works in schools to get pupils excited about career opportunities in the primary industries.

Ms Coppersmith did not come from a rural background — her family breeds racehorses in Cambridge and she grew up around horses. But one of the reasons that she was drawn to the role was the ability to make a difference in the agricultural industry, which was her passion.

Married with two teenage children, she enjoyed travelling and study. She is completing a Master of Business Administration through the University of Canterbury.

A self-described people person, she had a strong background in relationship management and building, which would be a key in the role.

There was a lot of tension in the industry, including around sustainability and the vegan movement.

But it needed to be highlighted that it was a very positive industry to be involved with and there were a lot of people working hard to make sure it was sustainable, she said.

Young Farmers had a great profile in New Zealand.

It was not just about farming; this was obviously a huge part of it, but there were so many other support industries involved in agriculture.

Ms Coppersmith starts work in NZYF’s Prebbleton office on October 1, and acknowledged she had a lot to learn.

Initially, her focus would be on sitting back and really understanding what Young Farmers was and what  the organisation’s priorities were.

There had been some great work done by previous chief executive Terry Copeland around mental health.

She had first-hand experience of that, dealing with farmers while at Fonterra during the global financial crisis, and had seen what that pressure could do to people. Looking after young farmers was crucial, she said.

She was also keen to get out and meet members.

"I want to really understand who is a New Zealand young farmer and what’s their priority."

She was hoping her appointment and having Ash-Leigh Campbell chairing the board would send a "positive signal" to women about the sector.

"The more CEOs we have who are women, the better. Diversity is extremely important. If the primary [industry] is to meet its growth targets, it needs to do everything it can to connect with young women."

Ms Campbell said Ms Coppersmith had great relationship  skills and  business acumen, and experience dealing with grassroots farmer issues.

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