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 Von Dadelszen - Hinerangi
Sarah von Dadelszen, a Massey University graduate and former bank manager, boasts an impressive CV: chair of the Central Hawkes Bay Consumer Power Trust; chair of the NZ Beef Council; member of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council; independent director of NZ Young Farmer Board; director of Ballance Agri-Nutrients; director of Agmardt (Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust); board of trustees at Takapau School; farm accountant; manager of the family business; and mum.
The long list means, these days, one role has taken a backseat. “On an on-farm basis, I’m almost defunct,” Sarah says. “I get to ride my horse and shift a few sheep.” Hinerangi Station, now a 1150ha sheep, beef and dairy property in Central Hawkes Bay, has been in her husband Sam’s family since his great-grandfather drew the land in a ballot in 1901. Sam and Sarah are 15 years into their stint as the fourth generation on the property. Sam’s parents, Dan and Caroline, have moved off the farm. Sarah and Sam now live in the homestead with their sons, Guy, 13, Jonty, 12, and Logan, eight. Dan drops in every day – he’s become the shepherd.
You’re an equal to your husband. Don’t put yourself behind.
Born and bred on a King Country farm, Sarah spent her days on a horse beside her father. The former farm consultant loved working at the station with Sam before children changed the arrangement. Full-time farming morphed into full-time business and community leadership when Sarah was asked to join the East Coast Beef Council. She became chair, then joined the national body, and then, “somebody said ‘I think you should stand for the electricity trust’, so I said ‘okay’.” Most of Sarah’s roles have been connected to agriculture, and her ever-growing network has led to opportunities. A visit last year to the Stanford University business school with a New Zealand Primary Industry Leadership Group, for example, provided deeper insight into global agri-business. Sarah says her development is possible thanks to the support of her husband. “I’ve got a husband who says, ‘Go for it’. He supports me absolutely and thinks it’s marvellous I’m doing all this.”
Sam isn’t the only one generous with support. Sarah has become a mentor to other I’d like to see more in the management side.” Sam and Sarah inherited the Silver Fern Farms partnership when they took over Hinerangi. They knew it was one worth nurturing. “We have a great relationship with them. We know exactly what they want and that helps us manage our business more effectively.” Although her passion for the industry is evident, there is one thing that bugs Sarah: “We call ourselves ‘farmers’ but we should call ourselves ‘producers of real quality food’. That should be what we’re showcasing – then we’d begin breaking down the divide between city and urban.”
Sarah would like her sons to carry on their role as “guardians of the land”. They have the right credentials, having been introduced to farming so early. Sarah and Sam brought Guy home from the hospital to an event celebrating their 2003 Silver Fern Farms Hawkes Bay Farmer of the Year victory. He was only one day old. Logan, however, was a late starter: “He was three weeks old when he went to his first Fonterra board meeting.”