It was while walking along a beach with her husband that Lisa Sims had her "light bulb" moment.

Mrs Sims, from Eketahuna, was recently appointed general manager of the Agri-Women's Development Trust.

She will lead the operations of the charitable trust, taking over from founder Lindy Nelson who steps down as executive director at the end of this month.

Since 2010, AWDT has equipped and supported nearly 3000 women to generate economic, social and environmental progress in the primary sector and rural communities through its business, leadership and governance programmes.


AWDT chairwoman Mavis Mullins said the appointment of a general manager was part of the trust's planned leadership succession following an independent recruitment process that attracted strong national interest.Mrs Sims, who has been involved with the trust since its inception, said she never initially considered the job.

"It just wasn't on my radar."

That was until her husband Tom, a sheep and beef farmer, told her she would be really good at it.

"Suddenly the penny dropped. I decided this is the work I love the most, the people I want to work with. I knew I could contribute," she said.

After leaving school, Mrs Sims completed a business degree in marketing, with Japanese, at Massey University and immediately afterwards headed to Japan promoting New Zealand red meat.

She then worked for what is now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the North Asia division before moving to Eketahuna, having met her husband.

She had a corporate job in Palmerston North but tired of travelling 50 minutes each way to work. So with some encouragement from her father, she set up her own communications and marketing consultancy which she has run from home since 1995.

It was great to be able to continue her career while raising four now young adult children and enjoying the rural lifestyle. She also did a lot of not-for-profit and community work.


Eight years ago, Mrs Nelson — who lived quite near — mentioned she was launching her trust the next week.

She asked her more about it and was "blown away" by what she heard so she asked Mrs Nelson if she needed any help.

Over the years, she had continued to contract to the trust, working with Mrs Nelson and a growing team.

In 2012, Mrs Sims completed the trust's flagship Escalator programme and, this year, she did two more courses, Understanding Your Farming Business — as she had never had a hands-on role on the farm — and Future Focus — which brought sheep and beef farming partners together — with her husband.

It was valuable to have experience of the programmes from both sides and have that personal experience.

She had been "super inspired" by women over the years that had stepped up through participating in the courses.

She recalled seeing the group of women at the start of the very first Escalator course and then being "blown away" by the difference in them by the end of the programme.

It was about bringing diversity of thinking into the sector; it was not about women and men, she said.

She had been inspired by what AWDT had achieved so far and the impact the trust's programmes had on people's lives, their businesses, rural communities and the wider primary sector.

Mrs Nelson had taken an idea and built it into something that was now sustainable. She wanted to now help extend that vision.It was an exciting time for the trust and there was huge demand from women for development and growth. There were also new programmes coming on stream.

"I'm really excited. There's plenty to get on with, no question about that," she said.

Mrs Nelson would continue in her role as an AWDT trustee and as programme director for Escalator.