Wednesday, 26 September 2018 11:57

A first step makes a huge difference

Written by 
Farmer Sandra Matthews. Farmer Sandra Matthews.

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.

Sandra and her husband Ian farm together on Te Kopae Station, 50km northwest of Gisborne. 

Before becoming involved with AWDT, she felt she had to fit the mould of farmer’s wife and mother. Today, she sees the world differently. She and Ian are partners in their farming business and Sandra is carving out her own path onfarm, in her community and nationally. 

Completing the Escalator programme has propelled Sandra into a national role empowering other women around New Zealand.  She leads the AWDT regional hub initiative (funded by Beef + Lamb NZ) which supports women who want to continue to connect, learn and contribute after completing AWDT programmes.  

In 2017 Sandra became a facilitator for Understanding Your Farming Business, another AWDT course.

Born out of the need to empower and support women in NZ’s primary sector, AWDT offers women the chance to grow personally and professionally via several programmes. Each year, 14 women are selected to join the Escalator leadership and governance programme, which begins in February and ends in November.

Sandra first connected with AWDT in 2014 when she completed the Understanding Your Farming Business and First Steps programmes (now called ‘It’s all about you’). A few years later, she was interested in applying for the Escalator programme, but lacked the confidence to take the next step.

“I’d looked at the Escalator programme countless times on the AWDT website but thought, ‘oh I can’t do that’,” she says. 

  A conversation with several Escalator alumni members gave her the confidence to apply.  “They made me realise that applying for Escalator was well within my capabilities and I should go ahead.  

“Undertaking Escalator has given me the confidence to go out there and tackle things I never dreamed I would do prior to the programme. The shift in mindset was subtle during the programme but powerful and enlightening by the year end.  It taught me that I have a lot more to contribute to the industry, not only at a grass roots level but sitting at the decisionmaking table.  

“Also I now view leadership from the perspective of the people I am leading; standing shoulder to shoulder with them to support them step up and find and fulfil their purpose. 

“The programme taught me a lot about different learning styles and personalities, and what makes people tick.  Now I look at people with fresh eyes and think, ‘how can I support them, what do they need and how can I help them achieve their goals?’ ”

She says the AWDT courses, in particular Escalator, have had a huge impact on her life.  Through her various roles she is empowering other women to come to their own conclusions about what they want.  One goal is to help women understand that they bring more value to their farming businesses than they often realise, as business partners, on the farm and supporting in the home. 

Ravensdown is a strategic partner of AWDT and the Escalator programme.

Applications for AWDT Escalator 2019 are now open and close on September 28.

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.

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.

Finding her feet beyond the farm

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.


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