Jessie won the coveted title out of a group of three finalists which included CEO of Sirona Animal Health Claire Nicholson and agribusiness consultant Jolene Germann.
The awards ceremony was held last night in Queenstown as part of a gala dinner at the Dairy Women’s Network’s annual conference.
It’s the sixth year in which the honour, sponsored by Fonterra, is awarded in recognition of the vital role women play in the dairy industry.
Jessie owns a dairy business with her husband, leasing 420ha near Rakaia, milking 950 cows. In addition to being a Fonterra Shareholders’ Councillor, she is director of the Ashburton Trading Society, serves on the Holstein Friesian New Zealand External Affairs Committee and is a member of the Institute of Directors and New Zealand Asian Leaders.
With a career spanning farming through to business and governance, Jessie’s experience stems from her roles in large organisations such as DairyNZ and Environment Canterbury, and volunteer positions with Federated Farmers, the Land Use Futures Board, Land and Water forum and Ballance AgriNutrients as a judge for their farm environment awards.
Dairy Women’s Network CEO Zelda de Villiers says Jessie is a worthy recipient of the title, citing her positive role modelling for others in the rural sector and her ability to work across all aspects of the dairy spectrum.
“Jessie’s career over the past decade has seen her add extraordinary value to the business of dairy in New Zealand,” she says. “It’s clear that across the variety of roles she has had, from volunteering through to business ownership and governance, she has made it a priority to share her expertise and give back where she can.
“We’re very proud to present her with the Dairy Woman of the Year title.”
Fonterra General Manager NZ Industry Affairs Jo Finer says Jessie is thoroughly deserving of the award.
“What quickly became clear in Jessie’s nomination is that she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, but is more than capable of seeing the bigger picture at the same time,” says Jo. “Experience like Jessie’s is incredibly valuable in this industry and we’re looking forward to seeing more great things from her in the future.”
Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman Duncan Coull was pleased to offer congratulations to Jessie on her significant achievement.
“Jessie is a determined dedicated individual focused on delivering value for the industry she is so passionate about. That commitment to serve across many organisations in the industry is outstanding which will not only provide inspiration for others but as importantly ensure the future health of our industry is in good hands. On behalf of our farmers we congratulate you and thank you for your commitment to the industry.”
Jessie says the award is great step for her to continue role-modelling dairy leadership to her peers and those looking to come through the ranks.
“I see myself further influencing change by being involved at a governance or representation level and advocating for the next generation to get involved in the industry.
“New Zealand’s dairy industry is unique in that we structure our farming businesses to bring the next generation of men and women on to the farm. I’m looking forward to working further on these kinds of collaborative relationships at a higher level.”
Jessie receives a scholarship prize of up to $20,000 to undertake a professional/business development programme.
Capping off a successful night for Fonterra farmers was Katrina Thomas winning the Dairy Women’s Network’s Dairy Community Leadership Award.
Awarded to an unsung heroes of rural communities it recognises the voluntary role dairy farming women have in leading their communities and sharing their time and skills beyond the farm gate.
Katrina 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 and is editor of the Takitumu Community newsletter.