Sunday, 04 September 2016 10:16

Finding her feet beyond the farm

Written by 
Adrienne Wilcock on her farm in Walton, near Matamata. Adrienne Wilcock on her farm in Walton, near Matamata.

Attending courses run by Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) has empowered a Waikato woman to face all sorts of farming challenges, the organisation says.

In February 2011 Adrienne Wilcock and her husband’s farm had 111 heifers in calf. That was until the neospora ‘abortion storm’ a short time later, resulting in just 59 of the latest line of genetics continuing on in the herd.

The following year the Wilcocks lost their farm cottage to a fire.

In 2014, some reprieve came with the record milksolids payout. But the good payout times quickly vanished. The tick-parasite theileria struck, and on the heels of that came an outbreak of facial eczema.

“The word resilience is bandied about a lot, but that’s simply a trait we as farmers must have, even though we’re tiring of it somewhat,” Wilcock says.

“After all, we’re involved in a hugely complex business that’s evolving all the time as technology and science progress, along with coping with volatility.

“Yes, we’ve got new issues onfarm with compliance and we are striving to maximise efficiencies and minimise waste. But as an industry it’s important to remember we have mitigated some of the challenges of 30-odd years ago such as bloat and milk fever. We know much more now.”

Wilcock is adept at observing detail on her own farm and seeing the bigger picture, AWDT says. The First Steps courses the organisation runs has been the key to this.

Says Wilcock, “I went on a First Steps course in 2012 and I distinctly remember it sparking a change in my thinking. There was a realisation of what else could be possible.”

First Steps, run specifically for women in agriculture, complements the trust’s Escalator programme, which Wilcock has also completed. She says the courses have led to her now having influential contacts in most dairying regions in New Zealand.

“I met LIC’s chief financial officer, Linda Cooper, on the Escalator course, and many other women who are not necessarily farmers but are key players in our industry.”

The courses have helped her become more self-aware.

“I need a purpose, I like to achieve things. I‘m a glass-half-full person. That’s what the course did for me – it helped me drill down, peel back the layers and discover what truly drives me.

“So even though I’d been an active farmer with my husband for over 30 years, had raised a family and been extensively involved in the community, I didn’t truly realise what skills I had acquired.”

Technically, many farmers’ wives see themselves as ‘being out of the workforce’ but they don’t realise how pivotal they are and what they have to offer, Wilcock says.

The First Steps courses help identify skills and opportunities: “You gain confidence from realising you have many transferable skills, and from there you can take your next step, whatever that might be.

“The Escalator programme builds on First Steps and covers leadership and governance.”

Wilcock is now the DairyNZ-appointed representative on the board of the Agrecovery Foundation, a rural recycling scheme.

“One of our goals is to lift the collection (recycling) rate from 30% of farm chemical plastic containers sold to 60%. The recycled plastic is made into other products, eg a cable cover that protects underground cables from spades cutting through them.”

Her governance role led to another board role: she is now on an Environment Canterbury project that investigates ‘ethical solutions’ for farm waste that is otherwise burned, buried, or bulk stored.

“As a dairy farmer I bring grassroots knowledge to the table. Like most famers I want to be a good steward of the land and we require practical, simple, cost-effective solutions to support us to do the right thing.

“It’s amazing what’s still out there, stuff like 245T and DDT; most of those chemicals are stored in the back of sheds. At least it’s not being dumped, but it’s time something more was done about it.

“I never thought my agriculture journey would involve this sort of work.” 

More like this

Escalating women leaders

To be a good leader, you have to first know your 'why', says Ravensdown shareholder and Agri-Women's Development Trust (AWDT) Escalator programme graduate Donna Cram.

A first step makes a huge difference

Taking the first step to do something challenging can be life-changing. For Ravensdown shareholder Sandra Matthews that’s exactly what happened after she completed the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) Escalator programme.

Getting women active in decision making

A course designed to lift farm profitability by helping farming women become more active partners in their farming businesses is achieving outstanding results, according to new research.


Why should we do more?

OPINION: Managing our dairy sector's impacts inevitably attracts a range of views. Should we do more, less or stay the…

Cattle sale with a difference

Innovation, loss and resilience have brought the Singh family to the point where it is poised to honour its patriarch,…

O'Connor's overseas odyssey

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor continued his overseas odyssey in the past week with multiple meetings in the US, Europe and…

Machinery & Products

Protective tint

Now available in New Zealand, Wildcat Static Cling Tint adds a protective layer to the windows of your tractor, harvester…

New owner for stoll

German company Stoll, the well-known manufacturer of tractor front loaders and attachments that claims to be the second largest producer…

Fert spreaders get a revamp

Kuhn has updated its MDS range of fertiliser spreaders, giving farmers more options to upgrade machines as situations change, rather…

Mowers spring into action

With spring upon us, thoughts turn towards shutting up paddocks for conservation and maybe the purchase of new machinery to…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Feeling the heat

US dairy farmers have a new threat to their business - heat waves.

Class action

The news has gone from bad to worse for a2 Milk - the company Synlait had hitched its wagon to.

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter