The two women at the helm on the Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive are keen to show others there’s nothing stopping women taking the lead on the challenges facing agriculture.
Caroline Amyes (President) and Bex Green (senior Vice-President and Vice-Dairy chairperson) were elected by fellow farmers at the province’s AGM in May and both are keen to “accelerate” Federated Farmers’ moves to grow diversity on boards and executives.
“One of my big things is about having vibrant rural communities and that means having everyone involved,” Caroline says.
“But it also means making sure that the policy we have is workable. There’s going to be change – the only constant is change, right? – but we’ve got to make sure the change that’s coming still allows us to be profitable for generations to come.”
Caroline grew up on a lifestyle block on the outskirts of Wellington, riding horses and raising pigs and chickens.
“I always wanted to be a farmer but being an urban girl, I thought the only way you ever got into farming was by marrying a farmer.”
Instead, she used her university degree in psychology and social policy to start a teaching career in Taranaki. It was when she moved down to Canterbury that she went relief milking while looking for another teaching role.
“I found I enjoyed it more than teaching and didn’t leave.”
Fast forward nine years through roles with Camden Group, Synlait Farms, a post-graduate diploma in agricultural science, work on ag health & safety systems with Onside and a Kellogg Rural Leadership programme. In 2019 Caroline landed at Craigmore Farming as an agricultural relationship partner. Craigmore has 22 dairy farms from Culverden to Oamaru, as well as sheep & beef, forestry and horticultural interests.
Bex first met Caroline on a leadership course last year and has taken a different path into agriculture.
“I never thought I’d marry a farmer, ever,” she says. “Now I wouldn’t want to love anywhere else [but rural].”
Bex lived all over New Zealand as a youngster until her family finally settled in Whangarei. She married a dairy farmer “and had kids pretty quick”. After three years dairying in Northland, she and Blair did a stint in Waikato before settling in Cheviot four years ago, where they now contract milk 800 cows.
While Bex completed qualifications in business management and book-keeping and was kept busy raising her three youngsters, now 8, 6 and 2, it was through the Dairy Women’s Network she realised ambitions get more involved in the agriculture sector, and advocating for farmers and rural families. She has been a DWN ‘Regional Leader of the Year’ finalist twice, and chaired the network’s Ashburton conference this year.
Both women say Feds seemed a natural progression as they looked to use their own journeys in farming to not only continue to influence how the sector response to challenges, but to encourage more women living out on farms to get involved.
Feds has a bit of work to do on the diversity front, they say, but it’s coming along.
“You know I’ve got a five year-old and initially I couldn’t have been part of Feds unless we’d set up meetings so that they could also be done on-line,” Caroline says. “It’s about removing those barriers.”
There’s a pretty good balance of age and experience on the North Canterbury exec, but Caroline and Bec think having two women at the top table brings a slightly wider vision.
“Probably we have slightly different conversations from what some other execs might have…we might look at things from different angles,” Caroline says.
“It’s all about good engagement,” Bex says. “I just want to make sure everyone in our community feels welcome and able to have their say.”