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.
Katie Alsop - Omahu
When this farmer goes to work, she straps her nine-month-old into the front pack and heads to the paddocks. “She’s out and about on the farm with me every day,” Katie says of her daughter Isabel. “She just fits in with what we’re doing.” Katie and her husband Sully don’t fit the traditional model of a farming family. Sully grew up in Masterton, but fell for farming life having spent summer holidays helping out on friends’ properties in his teen years. He has worked as a farm consultant since 2006. Katie, on the other hand, does come from a farming family. She studied sports science and adventure tourism, but her heart was always on the land. The couple got their start in farming when they leased a 150ha farm east of Masterton in 2007. They then took over the lease of a 120ha block from Katie’s trust in 2011. Things have evolved since then and today, they “have four farms on the go”, totalling 1080ha. They don’t fit the traditional model, either. With Wellington couple Jack Hodder and Toni McWhinnie, Katie and Sully formed a 12-year equity partnership. Katie and Sully own one farm and have shares in two others. They can leverage the equity to help meet their goal of increasing their landholding and growing their farming operation.
I try to work smarter rather than harder.
“A lot of what I do is planning and overseeing the two block managers,” says Katie. She believes there’s a difference in the way female farmers approach their tasks. “I think women look at things from a different angle. People ask about the physical side, but you find ways around that,” she says. “I try to work smarter rather than harder.” Katie is a member of the Wairarapa Rural Women’s Initiative. “It’s a lovely group of ladies who are involved in farming or in business related to it,” she explains. “One of us will host a day every six weeks so we can discuss a variety of topics. “Farming now is so business orientated. It’s great to hear how other women have dealt with similar problems.”
Katie and Sully have worked exclusively with Silver Fern Farms for five years, supplying them all their beef and lamb. Katie says it’s great to work with people who share their values. “It’s a cooperative effort, so that we can provide a quality product.”