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Women In Seed Forum – May 2021

A recent turn out of women engaged in employment within the Seed Industry shows the future of diversity within the sector is looking good.

The second NZGSTA Women in Seed Forum was held at Riccarton Park Function Centre on the 19th of May and attended by 108 women from the Seed Industry. The roles of these women varied from agronomists, lab technicians, logistics roles, administrative roles, account managers, research technicians, grain traders, farmers and those passionate about the grain and seed industries.

Developed and hosted by the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association, Executive Councillor Charlotte Connoley said “the purpose of the forum was to provide more opportunities for networking amongst women within the industry in addition to providing a platform for further discussion and collaboration around key challenges and opportunities that face the grain and seed industries.”

Connoley is Managing Director of vegetable seed sales company South Pacific Seed Sales based in Pukekohe and was the first woman in 100 years of the organisations history to gain a place on the Executive council back in 2018. Evident by the number of attendees at this year’s forum and the passion many showed for the success of the industry it seems likely that before long Connoley will be followed by other women onto the executive council.

The opening address by Nicola Grigg, National MP for Selwyn and National spokesperson for women shared insights into National’s policy for Agribusiness and their approach to “make bad bills better”. Grigg spoke of the legacy her Grandmother, Mary Grigg who was elected MP for what was the mid-Canterbury electorate in 1942, and shared excerpts from some of her speeches which even back then supported the significant contribution that arable farmers made to the country through food security.

CEO for the Foundation for Arable Research, Alison Stewart’s address on the future challenges the arable sector may meet and the work being done to address these from carbon emissions, to crop rotations, getting New Zealanders to support NZ grown grains and everything in between captivated the audience of women and was much of the focus of discussions throughout the day.

Other speakers included Deb Francis Principal of Ag Recruit with some thoughts on Career Planning, job satisfaction, what support do you need in your role, how to prepare for job interviews. Milly Taylor Key Account Manager from Mainfreight Air & Ocean provided insight on the current air and ocean freight challenges in respect of import and export for the seed and grain industries and how Covid has affected the freight industry.

Sponsored by Jarden fund managers, the Two Raw Sisters, Margo and Rosa shared their passion for plant based foods and a demonstration on easy ways to use plants in cooking and baking. As Gen Z’s and with a following on social media these inspiring young ladies gave the audience a clear understanding of the knowledge gap that exists in understanding the products of the seed and grain industry with limited visibility on where to source New Zealand grown grains and seeds.

Over lunch attendees got an opportunity to network with their peers and through a workshop coordinated by Lesley Woudberg, tackled the real issues facing the industry and explored possible avenues for addressing these in the immediate as well as future.

The range of speakers was key to the success of the day with everything covered off from wills and relationship property thanks to Alana Crampton from Tavendale & Partners, through to wheat gross margins and the increasing use of biologicals.

The forum concluded with a reminder by Megan van Leishout of Soul Nourishment of the importance of “US” and to take time to build mental resilience to better meet the ongoing pressures faced by modern women.

Connoley was thrilled with the attendance and level of engagement “Women have a unique perspective and are often under represented at the decision making levels of organisations, so it’s great to be able to get together and discuss the big issues and provide our knowledge from all areas of the industry to finding solutions to these”.

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