Roles in farming can cover a wide range of occupations. New columnist Anne-Marie Wells takes time out to describe just some of hers.
When filling out a form and asked to enter your occupation, do you:
(a) Confidently write in your occupation.
(b) Choose one of the roles you do that is most appropriate to the form.
(c) Have no idea what to put.
I have to admit to being a (c).
It used to be an easy question to answer. For the first eight years of my career I was a software engineer, then I spent two years as a business analyst. Now when I am asked, I think of lots of answers but I never quite know which one to pick; dairy farmer, housewife, administrator, director, relief milker, HR manager, business systems advisor, chief finance officer…
To explain my indecisiveness, here is a little bit about me.
My husband and I equity manage a 650-cow dairy farm on the outskirts of Dunedin, employing three full-time staff, relief milkers and a calf-rearer. As well as being farm managers, we are shareholders and directors of the farm.
We have three school-age children, two business partners and one chook.
I work on an ad-hoc basis for PeopleMAD, helping farmers become more efficient with their office systems and am on the Dairy Connect contact list, which offers a great way for farmers to support each other. People feeling connected is important to me, which was a driver in my involvement establishing a local rural community group. I help out at cubs and enjoy vege gardening,
When Duncan and I met, he was 50-50 sharemilking and already had a complete farm team, making me an extra helper rather than a full-time team member. This was perfect because I had no farming experience whatsoever. In fact, I had a fear of pretty much every animal in existence. What I did have experience and confidence in was business systems and I was more than comfortable taking on responsibility for the paperwork side of the farm.
This is the way it still works today; I run the office and am backup for farm work. During the spring, I am very much a dairy farmer, but at times when it isn’t as busy out onfarm, I feel a fraud if I refer to myself as a farmer. In those times, calling myself an administrator feels as though I am playing my role down and to say I am chief executive or director feels as though I am playing it up.
Despite the uncertainness over describing my role, there is one thing of which I am sure – I am not the only farming woman to feel like this.
Fortunately organisations such as the Agri-Women’s Development Trust, Dairy Women’s Network and Thriving Farming Women have taught me that even if I struggle to put a definitive label on my occupation, what I do is important, worthwhile and necessary (even taking time out to read my book with a cup of tea – thanks to those organisations for also teaching us ladies that ‘me-time’ is equally as important, worthwhile and necessary).
I think it’s a little early to add columnist to my list of roles, but I am really enthusiastic to have the opportunity to write for the Dairy Exporter and am looking forward to bringing the perspective of a business analyst, housewife and (backup) dairy farmer to the mix.