Women in Arable discuss building community capability

Supporting industry, personal development and a sense of duty are some of the reasons to take their volunteer work to the next level, according to guest speakers at the recent Women in Arable meeting.

The meeting, hosted by Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) at the Hotel Ashburton last month, was on community capability building.

It was designed to give attendees a glimpse into the types of training available for those already involved in sports clubs, schools and charities but looking to move up the management and governance ladder.

Guest speakers, Helen Andrews, Karen Williams and Michelle Ward are at different levels of their personal development and spoke about their backgrounds and training.

Mrs Williams, of Masterton, is Federated Farmers national board Arable Industry Group chairwoman, and hailed from a policy background dealing with resource management.

Juggling children, the farm and work, Mrs Williams said ''nothing is impossible at whatever age and stage''.

She said valuable insight could be gained from entering a farm into the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, or through personal programmes such as AgriWomen's Development Trust (AWDT) escalator or Federated Farmers leadership and development programmes.

''Opportunities come along when you least expect them.''

''If you have confidence in your abilities and put your hand up, then opportunities will come your way.''

Mrs Ward, an arable farmer from South Canterbury with adult children, was a qualified valuer, but was putting more time into the family's businesses, an arable farm, with onions and a packhouse.

She said the AWDT five-day programme ''next level'' - run in two sessions six months apart with online learning - was her chance to get some perspective and inspiration.

It focused on leadership, knowing your strengths and using them.

Not only was the AWDT a networking opportunity with a cross-section of participants in the 16-woman course, she could ''transfer the skills to our own farm operation''.

Mrs Ward said there were a variety of programmes designed to take people to the next level, including the Kellog Rural Leadership Programme and different AWDT programmes as well as Rabobank Business Management programmes.

''Nothing ventured, nothing gained,'' she said.

Mrs Andrews, a pig farmer from South Canterbury, was in the midst of her leadership journey - she is a director on the New Zealand Pork Industry board.

She completed the Kellog Rural Leadership Programme last year, to broaden her skillset and be a good role model to her daughters.

Mrs Andrews said it was family ''front and centre, no compromise'' but she chose to further herself so ''my industry is strong for the future, which ultimately is their future.''

''Diversity doesn't look like anything specific,'' she said, of recent pushes to have more women in top-level positions.

But she said extending her knowledge - especially for the good of the pork industry - was a good perspective for her daughters to see. And having dad making their tea and putting them to bed on occasion added its own value, she said.

Among other things, the programme showed her the importance of learning to work with others.

That, coming from an industry where you were mostly sole operator, was an eye opener.

Mrs Andrews said 24 ''highly motivated individuals'', aged from early 20s through to mid 60s, did the 17-day programme, spread over six months.

''They were a broad diverse group and they were all potential leaders. Leaders are not one shape, style or size.''

It also included a visit to Parliament and the completion of a personal project. Mrs Andrews chose to do hers about ''the pork industry and its biggest challenge - imported product''.

She said the programme gave her valuable experience and skills around leadership, her own reflection and goal setting.

It also pushed her boundaries around being in the unfamiliar world of academia.

Mrs Andrews planned to continue her own personal development through an Institute of Directors Course which would help with public speaking and give her more experience with Maori culture.

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