Fonterra farmers leading the way in the 2017 Dairy Community Leadership Awards


Community leadership, a willingness to share knowledge and a passion for rural life are all qualities shared by the three Fonterra farmers who are finalists for the 2017 Dairy Community Leadership Award.

This year’s finalists are dairy farmers Alison Ferris, Cathy Prendergast and Katrina Thomas.


The Dairy Community Leadership Award is a Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) initiative which recognises the unsung heroes of rural communities. 

The award recognises the voluntary role dairy farming women have in leading their communities and sharing their time and skills beyond the farm gate.

This year’s award will be presented at an awards ceremony during the DWN conference in Queenstown, 11-12 May.

Cathy Prendergast lives in the Arohena district in Waikato, south east of Te Awamutu. As well as being a registered nurse, she is involved in most of Arohena’s community initiatives and groups including playcentre, school, church, and has been a member of the Arohena Rural Women Committee for 30 years. She has just completed her first year of a MBA at the University of Waikato.

Katrina Thomas worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years before returning to her farming roots in Southland. In 2012 she became DWN’s regional convenor for Invercargill and in 2016 took on a new role as the Southern Regional Hub leader. She’s involved with several community groups including Takitimu School PTA, Western Southland Tennis, Takitimu District Board Pool, is editor of the Takitumu Community newsletter and much more.

Originally from the UK, Alison Ferris lives on a 500 cow dairy farm outside Te Kuiti, and she and her family also own farms in Waikato and Southland. She is active on several school and community boards and groups and represents DWN’s regional convenors on its board of trustees.

“I have often said that our dairy communities are supported by people just like Cathy, Katrina and Alison,” says DWN Chief Executive Zelda de Villiers.

“In any rural community you have those special people who keep the wheels of groups and initiatives turning, while continuing to milk the cows and raise families. While it may seem effortless from the outside, we know there’s a huge amount of work and dedication there and too often it goes unrecognised.”