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Atiamuri dairy farmer appointed to North Island convenor role

Dairy Women’s Network appoints Atiamuri dairy farmer to North Island convenor role

Atiamuri dairy farmer Karen Forlong has been appointed North Island convenor coordinator for the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN).

In the 20-hours per week role, Forlong is charged with supporting 18 regional volunteers who run the Network’s regional groups from the top to the bottom of the North Island.

DWN chief executive Zelda de Villiers said the Network was delighted with Karen’s appointment.

“Karen brings a wealth of farming and leadership experience to the Network. Alongside her farming responsibilities she is on the board of Rotorua District Vets and is about to complete the Agri-Women Development Trust’s Escalator Programme.

“She has also contributed a significant amount of her own time to the DWN over the past 12 years, playing a significant role in organising three of our annual conferences,” said de Villiers.

Forlong said the work of the Dairy Women’s Network is inspirational and empowering. She said women play a huge part in the success of a dairy farming business, which is why she applied for the role.

Forlong first joined the Network in 2002 as a member of the Rotorua regional group. She said she knows what it is like to be new to a farming community having shifted many times in her early years of share milking.

She’s farmed in Matamata, Ngarua, Tatuanui, Kiwitahi, Arohena and Tokoroa.

“This is why the DWN is such a brilliant network. It’s a great way to meet women in your community who are on your level; women you can really connect with because they are farming, have similar drivers and are often facing the same challenges.

“The Network is very inclusive and that support can’t be underestimated during stressful and difficult times,” said Forlong.

With more than 30 years’ experience dairy farming herself, Forlong wishes to continue to have a hands-on role at home where she farms alongside husband Maurice, milking 360 cows on their 200-hectare (140 effective) property. This is the couple’s 19th year on the farm and they are excited to be welcoming family home to the farm in the coming season.

She said in her new role, supporting the Network’s 18 North Island dairy farmer volunteers will be the priority.

“Dairying women who put their hands up to run the DWN’s regional groups are hands-on farmers themselves with busy workloads that include juggling farming and family responsibilities. We are incredibly respectful of the fact that they give their time freely to the DWN and other women in their communities to run these groups.

“Collectively our volunteer regional coordinators have an incredibly broad range of valuable skills. I see my role being to support and help them develop, share and deliver resources, information and training that is tailored to what the members in their area want.”

The volunteer regional convenors are responsible for planning all the events for the year in their own regions. Forlong said each group has a different agenda depending on the convenor.

“The level they are at in their own farming career, their farming experiences and how active the regional group members are in terms of putting forward ideas and attending events all influence how the regional groups are run. I would like to build on our inclusive ethos, aid the planning process and encourage the sharing of ideas between groups about training and events that have worked really well.”

Forlong said she will connect with regional convenors regularly over the phone and via email and is looking forward to meeting many of them at the DWN’s Regional Convenor training in Wellington in May.

Her South Island counterpart Cathie Cotter from Woodlands in Southland was appointed in June 2013.

The Dairy Women’s Network has more than 5000 members across its 30 regional groups - 18 in the North Island and 12 in the South. Membership to the Dairy Women’s Network is free.

-ENDS-

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