Understanding business empowers busy farmer

Understanding Your Farming Business Lawrence-programme graduate Jess Lamb (right) with Escalator...
Understanding Your Farming Business Lawrence-programme graduate Jess Lamb (right) with Escalator alumni and guest speaker Helen Gilder, at the UYFB graduation. PHOTO: supplied
Jess Lamb loves being busy.

That is just as well, given the amount of things going on in her life, whether it is farming, children, part-time work as a beauty therapist or her involvement with the local fire brigade.

Mrs Lamb farms with her husband Greg in the Wendon Valley, near Gore, where their children Stevie (6) and Mac (5) are sixth-generation on the land.

She recently completed the Agri-Women's Development Trust's Understanding Your Farming Business programme, which aimed to equip and support women with the knowledge, skills and confidence to lift the performance and profitability of their farming business.

Fully funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership, the programme involved three full-day workshops and inter-module work held over four months.

Participants explored how to understand and assess financial information, monitor and measure farm performance and develop effective communication and business planning skills.

Mrs Lamb, who competed the programme in Lawrence, did not grow up on a farm, although her mother came from a farming background and she loved visiting her grandparents and being on farm.

She became involved in hands-on farm work when her husband was away doing livestock pregnancy scanning. The couple have a sheep and beef operation, trading, fattening and grazing.

Before a friend recommended she sign up for the UYFB course, Mrs Lamb had a desire to have a better understanding around the financial side of the farming business.

She had taken over the GST coding and was trying to get her head around that. The couple's accounting firm was very helpful - "I had them on speed dial for the first year" she quipped - and it gave her the confidence and desire to learn more.

The benefits from undertaking UYFB had been "huge" - it made her understand why they did certain things and a lot of things suddenly made sense. And she also learned plenty of "new stuff".

It had also empowered her and she was excited about taking control of their business and putting plans into action.

Her husband had been very encouraging and she had also been able to teach him things, as well.

"I just wish I'd done it years before," she said.

There was also the networking aspect to the course which was "massive"; although the group of women were on different farms, they all had the same goals - to help their business and be successful.

Admitting that she was very nervous about initially attending, fearing that she was going to "know nothing", Mrs Lamb said it was a "really cool group" and they could talk openly.

"Everyone was kind of in the same boat, and I didn't feel dumb," she said.

Mrs Lamb was also full of praise for the "fabulous" course leaders who took time to help other women.

First introduced in 2014, the programme was being delivered to 44 locations this year in rural areas throughout New Zealand and, by the end of this year, more than 1900 women would have completed the programme. It was returning to Lawrence next month.

Mrs Lamb said she would definitely recommend it to other women. She would be keeping an eye out for any other courses that appealed and she was even thinking about the possibility of some further study down the track.

Once a week, she enjoyed the contrast of leaving farm life to put on her make-up, nice clothes and head to Tapanui to do her beauty therapy.

"I'm not anybody else for the day, I'm just me," she said.

A year ago, she joined the Waikaka fire brigade, which was getting short on volunteers. Deciding that she wanted to give something back to the community, she signed up. It had "definitely" got her out of her comfort zone but she had been loving her involvement.

She also played netball and squash in winter and enjoyed "a bit of DIY".

"I love being busy and I love having a project," she said.


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