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.

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