Breaking the mould of public perception about the role of farmers' wives is highlighted by this year's four finalists for the 2019 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

Trish Rankin from Taranaki, Kylie Leonard who farms north of Taupo, Julie Pirie from Ngatea in the Waikato and Southlander Emma Hammond are all in the running for the prestigious dairy award which will be announced at a gala dinner during the Allflex Dairy Women's Network's conference in Christchurch on May 1 this year.

Dairy Women's Network Trustee and a member of the awards judging panel Alison Gibb said women on-farm are not just farmers' wives anymore, and that they all juggle multiple roles, from being a vet and mechanic to a financial planner and strategic thinker.

"There's no doubt the role women play in dairy farming now completely breaks the old fashioned mould of public perception about what a farmer's wife is," Gibb said.

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"They're all farming partners, farming in their own right playing a major role in running a million dollar business."

"They are a CEO, health and safety manager, environmental watchdog, farm labourer and policy writer but at the end of the day tuck the kids into bed at night and send them off to school with a packed lunch."

The strong message from this year's finalists, Gibbs said, was although each was very passionate about their own farming operation, they all had an inner-drive to go beyond and make the dairy industry a better place for all and future generations.

"They all want to make their mark in the dairy industry and feel a real need to get out beyond the gate to make a difference and to do their bit to leave the dairy industry better than it was before."

Rankin is a Primary Teacher and passionate environmentalist and sixth-generation dairy farmer Leonard has completed postgraduate study in Specific Learning Disabilities for Dyslexia.

University graduate Pirie has a passion for encouraging young people into dairy farming, while Hammond had a technical, compliance and quality assurance career in the meat industry prior to focusing on dairy farming.

All the women are heavily involved in business and community networks while finding time to work on professional development and spend time with family.

Mike Cronin, Fonterra's Managing Director of Co-operative Affairs, said that supporting the Dairy Woman of the Year award is important to Fonterra because the co-operative wants to keep shining a light on the significant contributions being made by women across New Zealand.

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"We also acknowledge the ongoing work of the Dairy Women's Network to develop, connect and celebrate women in dairy," Cronin said.

"This year, we see another impressive group of finalists who are driving the dairy industry forward and making a positive difference in their respective communities."

The 2019 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year receives a scholarship prize of up to $20,000 to undertake an approved professional business development programme.

Last year's winner was Loshni Manikam, a former lawyer, leadership coach and Federated Farmers Southland executive member.

Originally from South Africa, Manikam now lives in Southland milking 600 cows with her husband and three children.

The 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year finalists are:
Kylie Leonard

Kylie Leonard. Photo / Supplied
Kylie Leonard. Photo / Supplied

The Dairy Industry has been part of Kylie Leonard's family for six generations.

Farming north of Taupo with her husband Rick and their three daughters, Leonard has been involved in a wide range of areas in her community and the dairy industry, including being a Fonterra Shareholders Councillor, a DWN Regional Leader and an Ambassador for the Dairy Industry Awards Central.

Currently Leonard is on the REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) Board in Taupo, an Ambassador for the Dairy Industry Awards, a member of the Board of Trustees at her children's school, the Patron of Taupo Family Playcentre and has recently completed her three year term on the Tongariro Community Organisations Grant Scheme committee.

Leonard enjoys judging calf club calves at Reporoa Primary School. She also teaches children with dyslexia and supports their parents through processing assessments and advocating for their children.

Julie Pirie

Julie Pirie. Photo / Supplied
Julie Pirie. Photo / Supplied

Pirie has been involved in the dairy industry all her life, coming from a family that have been dairy farming for many generations. After graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree, Pirie worked as a Consulting Officer for Dairy NZ. Married to Brian, they live in Ngatea with their two children where they own 400 ha.

Pirie's passion is dairy farming and she takes any opportunity to promote the dairy industry and loves sharing farming with young people that has led to many opportunities, most recently as Chair of the Donald Pearson Farm in Brookby, Auckland.

Pirie is a member of the Fonterra Shareholders Council, has been a member of all of its committees and chaired the Co-operative Culture committee. She has also been on the NZ Dairy Industry Awards Trust.

Trish Rankin

Trish Rankin. Photo / Supplied
Trish Rankin. Photo / Supplied

Trish Rankin balances teaching part time at Opunake Primary School with being on-farm full time with her husband Glen and their four boys in South Taranaki.

A passionate environmentalist, Rankin has undertaken the Kellogg Leadership Programme this year with the main purpose being a research project focused on 'how can a circular economy model be developed on a NZ dairy farm.'

Rankin said she is both a farm assistant and CEO of their farming business, having learnt over the years to milk, drive tractors, feed stock and do fences as well as sort the Health and Safety and human resources out.

An active Dairy Enviro Leader (DEL) and member of the NZ DEL network Rankin is also Chair of the Taranaki DEL group.

In 2018 she was elected onto the National Executive for the NZ Dairy Awards and last year was selected as a NZ Climate Change Ambassador as part of the Dairy Action for Climate Change.

Emma Hammond

Emma Hammond. Photo / Supplied
Emma Hammond. Photo / Supplied

Before fully committing to dairy farming in East Limehills in Southland with her husband Peter and their three children, Emma Hammond was working in the technical, compliance and quality assurance area in the meat industry, while farming sheep with Peter.

In 2008 they converted their property to dairy, and now run it as an equity partnership milking 475 cows, while wintering the cows and grazing the dairy farm;s young stock on their home farm at Winton.

In 2014 Hammond joined the Fonterra Shareholders' Council representing farmers in Eastern Southland to the Fonterra Board.

Over the past four years she has served on the Council's Representation and Co-operative Culture committees, Budget Team and Leadership Team, and is presently a member of the Performance Committee.

Hammond also finds time for professional development, having recently completed the Institute of Directors' Governance Development course, while currently participating in the Fonterra Governance Development Programme.