When Whanganui's Kirsten Bryant was voted a director of Beef + Lamb NZ in 2010 she was also shifting to a farm at Fordell and bringing up three children aged 4 to 8.

She's hoping to have time to finish unpacking when she steps down from her board, having decided not to stand again.

Bryant and a woman from the South Island were the first women ever voted into director positions. She's since done two more three-year terms - last time uncontested.

She was brought up in the city but married farmer Paul Bryant and learned how to farm. Their first property was at Tawata on the Whanganui River.


They mortgaged everything they had to buy it. At that time Bryant had her own team of dogs, a handpiece and a "big engine".

"It was spectacularly beautiful. That's where my heart really sits. That was like our first child, that farm," she said.

Now their farming business, called Oneida after the Fordell farm, encompasses that first farm, another near Taumarunui and the family farm at Fordell which they took over on Christmas Eve 2009.

Bryant got onto the B+L NZ board at a good time. Farmers had just voted down a wool levy which had provided much of its income. It was a vote of no-confidence and time for the board to rebuild and reconnect with farmers.

The work of rebuilding took up at least three days a week, Bryant said. But she felt blessed to work with such passionate people, and sometimes it was fun. She was on call 24/7, with farmers ringing about all sorts of things.

Part of the role was a seat on the New Zealand Meat Board, and another on the Land and Water Forum (LAWF) - which was sometimes frustrating.

The income has been about $30,000 a year - but Bryant said she didn't take the job for money.

"It costs our business way more than that. It's certainly not why people do it."


Since that first "no" to the wool levy farmers have approved another levy, then voted an increase. Those could be votes of confidence.

"I'm hugely satisfied with where we've got to. It just feels like a good time to let somebody else have a go," Bryant said.

She sees a lot of threats to sheep and beef farming now. Farmers could be overwhelmed with worries about how to mitigate carbon emissions or keep waterways pristine. Or they could be worried about wool prices, or facial eczema, or the market for alternative proteins.

Then there's the billion trees initiative, which could hoover up all suitable land.

But Bryant thinks the biggest threat is farmer confidence, in the face of all these things.

"If you read the paper you would ask yourself if you have a future."

But at the same time, she said market opportunities are huge.

"People want grass-fed naturally produced, ethically treated product that tastes good and that they can trust."

Markets in the United States are doubling every year, and New Zealand could never supply all the demand in China.

"That's pretty exciting, if we are going to be allowed to do it."

She's not sure what she will do herself, once she's off B+L NZ. She's had offers, and is waiting to see what strikes her heart.

"I just want to breathe for a couple of months and put some effort and attention into our business," she said.

Bryant has been an incredibly hardworking and effective B+L NZ director, Wanganui Federated Farmers president Mike Cranstone said.

She articulates her points well, and has often brought people to a solution that's workable for farmers - at the same time sticking to her principles.

"No matter what mud was thrown at the industry, she's never stooped to that level."

The Whanganui branch of Federated Farmers is giving the two candidates for Bryant's position a chance to talk to voters during a 6pm meeting at The Brick House in Whanganui on February 21.