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International Women’s Day 2019

  • March 08, 2019
  • 7 min read

International Women's Day is all about celebrating the achievements of women and also reflecting on how individuals, organisations and society as a whole can advance gender equality

We’re taking the opportunity to highlight just a few of the women who are making a difference in dairy.

The theme in 2019 is ‘Balance for Better.’ One of the ways Fonterra has shown its commitment to promoting gender balance is by getting the Gender Tick, and being among the first New Zealand businesses to do so.

For International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the inspiring women at the heart of the Co-op who love what they do. Check out their stories below.

Penny Smart

Meet Penny Smart

Penny spotted an opportunity to make the best use of her whole farm, hills and flats combined, for dairy farming 15 years ago. Located in Dargaville, Northland, Penny believes that if you get the biology of the soil right everything else will fall into place, and notes that making the conversion to biological farming practices is one of her greatest career achievements.

Penny has a desire to leave the land that she farms in an environmentally, economically, socially and culturally sustainable way. When she’s not on the farm, Penny loves to read and has a role on the Northland Regional Council that keeps her busy. 

Casey Robson

Meet Casey Robson

Farming is in Casey’s blood. She loves working hard and seeing the return from the effort she puts in to milking her 1000 cows in South Canterbury. Casey’s advice to young women thinking about a career in the industry is simple – never let anyone make you think you can’t or you’re not worthy of doing a job because you’re a woman.

When she’s not on the farm, Casey loves to dress up and be girly, play in her vege garden and spend time with her family. One word to describe Casey is busy – but she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Donna Griggs

Meet Donna Griggs

Donna grew up on her parent’s dairy farm and it was that experience that fostered her passion for being outdoors and the variety a farming life can offer. Today, Donna and her husband are 50/50 sharemilkers in Ruawai, Northland, and love the lifestyle it has offered their children.

Reaching that goal of 50/50 sharemilking, winning the Dairy Industry Award for Northland Farm Manager of the Year (2012) and completing a diploma in Agribusiness Management all whilst being on the farm have been career highlights for Donna.  

Donna is best summed up in the words of her father, “a Winston Churchill Bulldog” – once she sinks her teeth into something, she doesn’t let go.” 

Colleen Taylor

Meet Colleen Taylor

Turning 75 years old on the 12th March whilst still actively running a 100ha farm is just one of the impressive feats in Colleen Taylor’s life. She is also the CEO of a 525 split calving farm at Waikiekie, south of Whangarei and has been in the industry for 50 years. 

Speaking about the industry, Colleen says it’s so rewarding and doesn’t take away from her desire to be well dressed and fashionable. When she’s not on the farm her family and nine grandchildren are her main priority. 

There’s nothing on the farm that a woman can’t do, it all comes down to a positive attitude and the will to learn. 

Janelle Imeson

Janelle Imeson

Meet Janelle Imeson

Janelle had a big city career in Sydney when she first met her husband, but eventually returned to his childhood roots in Whangarei where they now milk 200 cows. Janelle quickly went from being a ‘farmers wife’ doing the odd calf feeding to being able to be the sole charge of their farm within six months – and with two young kids in tow.

Janelle’s advice to young women is that there’s nothing on the farm that a woman can’t do, it all comes down to a positive attitude and the will to learn. To sum herself up in one word, Janelle says she is ‘determined.’

Lyna Beehre

Meet Lyna Beehre

Despite being discouraged from dairy farming at high school, Lyna knew she’d end up on a dairy farm after being brought up on one herself. The diversity of the industry is what Lyna loves and encourages young women to look into it. She always loved working with cattle, and doing a physical day’s work, and totally believes in the beautiful product her jersey cows produce.

When she’s not on the farm, Lyna loves to be at the beach, watching her kids’ sport and enjoys spending time with her friends.

Hayley Hoogendyk

Meet Hayley Hoogendyk

Being the first solo female to win the National Dairy Industry Award for Manager of the Year is Hayley’s greatest career achievement. Hayley encourages young women just starting out in the industry to jump in and have a go and become involved outside the farm gate as well.

When she’s not on her Palmerston North farm milking 200 cows, Hayley enjoys attending young farmers events, along with visiting family and playing a round of golf with friends.

To young women just starting out into the industry, if you find an avenue that inspires you, pursue it!

Lisa Charmley

Lisa Charmley

Meet Lisa Charmley

Lisa met her husband, a fourth-generation dairy farmer at a triathlon in Napier – and the rest is history. A highlight of her 11-year career has been the Balance Farm Environment Awards which have changed the way her family farms, making the environment a big focus. To young women just starting out into the industry, Lisa says if you find an avenue that inspires you, pursue it!

 In her spare time, Lisa loves to get stuck into DIY and describes herself as resourceful. 

Jo Forsythe

Meet Jo Forsythe

Jo went from city chick to farming guru in Northland milking 200 cows. Although farming was foreign to them in the beginning, Jo and her family saw it as an affordable and challenging option 10 years ago and haven’t looked back since.

Highlights of her career include completing her ITO farming management course. Jo loves the industry because of the day to day flexibility it offers and the lifestyle it has created for her children. To describe herself in one word, Jo says ‘energiser.’

Gail Mitchell

Meet Gail Mitchell

Gail’s been in the industry for 22 years, and what drew her in was the possibility of having control of her own business and a secure future for her family. Her greatest career achievement was purchasing their first farm with 300 cows in 2001 whilst still sharemilking a herd of 750 cows.

Gail’s advice to young women just starting out is, “go for it and back yourself! There are so many opportunities.” When she’s not on the farm Gail enjoys spending time with family at the beach or in the bush.

Go for it and back yourself! There are so many opportunities.

Gail Mitchell

Jocelyn Bevin

Meet Jocelyn Bevin

Jocelyn’s uncles were dairy farmers so the idea of entering the industry was never far from her mind. Now living in Naroghid, Western Victoria, her biggest achievement stems off of this, working herself from employee to actually purchasing her own dairy farm where she milks 180 cows.

To young people just starting out in their career, Jocelyn encourages them to look and learn things that apply on the farm but also off the farm too.

Belinda Griffin

Meet Belinda Griffin

Belinda worked on a dairy farm as part of work experience when she was 16 years old and loved it, but always thought working on a farm was out of reach as she lived in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

So, Belinda describes her current situation of owning a farm with her husband ‘lucky.’ The job never stops and that’s one thing Belinda loves so much. She sums herself up in one word ‘indefatigable.’

To young people just starting out in their career, look and learn things that apply on the farm but also off the farm too.

Belinda Griffin

Andrea Stratford

Meet Andrea Stratford

Andrea Stratford has been farming since she was born. She studied Physical Education and Physio at Otago University before returning home and fulfilling a dream alongside her Father to work and develop their own in-house dairy unit. That dairy conversion is her greatest achievement, and there’s nothing she would change about the process.

Andreas advice to young women who are just starting out and thinking about getting into the agriculture industry is; “Choose an industry you love, and follow your passion. Focus on ‘doing you’ and try be the best version of yourself at all times.”

Choose an industry you love, and follow your passion. Focus on ‘doing you’ and try be the best version of yourself at all times.

Andrea Stratford