Farming skills arm Wairarapa women

By Gerald Ford gerald.ford@age.co.nz -
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Wairarapa sheep and beef farming women who graduated from the Understanding Your Farming Business course, run by the Agri-Women's Development Trust. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Wairarapa sheep and beef farming women who graduated from the Understanding Your Farming Business course, run by the Agri-Women's Development Trust. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A class of Wairarapa women has graduated this autumn better equipped to impact their sheep and beef farming businesses.

The team of students completed the four-month Understanding Your Farming Business course, run by the Agri-Women's Development Trust.

A graduation ceremony was held at Copthorne Resort Solway Park with the women supported by the partners with whom they farm.

The course aims to empower women to view themselves and their farming roles differently, while building technical and communication skills.

It is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), a Primary Growth Partnership programme.

After a successful pilot in 2014 and a national rollout to 140 women last year, the programme was extended to reach another 240 women in 14 regions this year. Wairarapa now has 42 graduates.

Agri-Women's Development Trust founder and executive director Lindy Nelson said the "targeted development of women in sheep and beef farming partnerships" is designed to increase profitability and strengthen the farming partnership.

"By taking a greater role in decision making, and applying new business, communication and change-making skills, these women are creating opportunities to lift farm performance in a challenging farming landscape," Ms Nelson said.

Last month the Red Meat Profit Partnership also funded research of more than 1000 sheep and beef farmers throughout New Zealand. The results, say partnership analysts, show that in most cases the business contribution of the women was key to initiating and supporting change -- with an openness to change being characteristic of high-performing farms.

Partnership general manager Michael Smith says there is "no doubt women play a key role" in New Zealand farming.

"However, we believe that with the right practical support and learning, they can play an even greater role and ultimately improve the productivity and profitability of the red meat sector.

"We're working to develop and grow the business skills of both men and women within the farming partnership -- and attract the next generation of top talent."

Early feedback from the course showed participants valued its relevance, the opportunity to network with other women, and gaining confidence to ask questions about and make contributions to their farming business.

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