The growing number of women involved in Silver Fern Farms are intelligent and dedicated with a diverse range of skills that would impress and inspire anyone. And they’re helping change the face of New Zealand agriculture through innovation, resilience and lots of hard work.
Sarah Coleman - Wanstead
“If you want anything done, you ask Sarah.” That’s a common phrase around Wanstead, southeast of Waipukurau, where Sarah Coleman and husband George farm a 780ha sheep and beef property. Born in Wairoa, and growing up in Napier, Sarah didn’t have a farming background but her journey took a detour when she married third-generation farmer, George. Her in-laws also live and work on the farm, and Sarah and George’s boys, Sam, eight, and Jim, six, are likely to be the fourth generation. The family has long been involved with Silver Fern Farms – “we are shareholders and my father-in-law is a staunch Silver Fern Farms man,” explains Sarah. It’s one of their most important business relationships and they work closely with their local agent, Brian Horton, who ensures “nothing is ever a problem”.
Sarah is in charge of the farm accounts and she’s in the docking crew, which consists of family. She also helps out in the woolshed and does yard work when needed, and she’s not afraid of getting in a tractor. But “I’ve always had another job.” Right now, that is running her own business, Boldlampshades, making unique lampshades, which are sold across New Zealand through her website and in design shops.
Six years ago, a neighbour began a playgroup for mums in the area. That has evolved into the Wallingford Ladies’ Night. Women new to the district can get to know other locals. It’s important, Sarah points out, for women who don’t have children: “Often they don’t have any way of meeting people, and they can be lonely.” Held at historic Wallingford Lodge, each event attracts 50 to 60 women.
Every week we would cook meals and take them up to Nicki’s house.
It’s not only newcomers who’ve been touched by Sarah and the girls in her community. When their friend Nicki Mitchell was diagnosed with breast cancer, the group banded together to help out the mother of three and her family. “Nicki was so well known and everyone wanted to help,” says Sarah, still harbouring pain when it comes to talking about her friend, who died in 2014. “Hannah [Morrah] set up a meal plan, and every week we would cook meals and take them up to Nicki’s house. We’d go and garden; we cleaned her house.”
As it so often does, tragedy strengthened the bond between the group, and Sarah continues to lead by example. She helped establish the weekly Gardening/Life event, where friends help one another with their gardens. She also kick started a morning exercise class at the local hall.