A 28-year-old who helps manage eight dairy farms and 8000 cows is the 2020 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year. Ngai Tahu farm manager Ash-Leigh Campbell, from Christchurch, was awarded the title at a Dairy Women’s Network virutal ceremony on Wednesday night.
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STUFF Ngai Tahu farm manager Ash-Leigh Campbell is the 2020 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

The other finalists were Auckland-based microbiologist and bio chemist Natasha Maguire and West Coast dairy farmer Heather McKay.

Network trustee and head judge Alison Gibb said all three contributed to the dairy industry in very different ways, highlighting the depth and diversity of women’s contribution to the sector in New Zealand.

“Ash-Leigh exudes energy and passion for the dairy industry and has actively sought opportunities to both contribute and grow in an industry she loves,” Gibb said.

A technical farm manager, Campbell has been working for the South Island Maori iwi farming operation for three years.

In her current role she assists with the management and performance of eight dairy and dairy support farms and 8000 cows.

Campbell studied at Lincoln University, gaining diplomas in agriculture and farm management, and a degree in commerce, majoring in agriculture.

It was during this time she had her first taste of the Dairy Women’s Network, becoming a regional leader and the driving force behind the Dairy Women’s Network Lincoln group, which has now merged into Selwyn.

She also helps with operational and environmental performance, analytical projects and the sustainable farming practices. She is also chairwoman of New Zealand Young Farmers.

Winning the Dairy Woman of the Year award was “amazing recognition” of just how far she had come in the industry, Campbell said.

“The opportunities Fonterra and Dairy Women’s Network have provided have given me the confidence to step out and grow in the industry in 10 short years,” she said.

“I’ve been bold, I’ve been brave and I hope this journey I’ve been on can showcase to other young wahine that anything is achievable.”

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell said the co-op is proud to recognise and help develop women in dairying who set high standards for themselves and the industry.

“I want to congratulate Ash-Leigh for winning this award and also the two other finalists. They are all outstanding ambassadors for our industry and are contributing to the pathways that will enable the next generation of farmers to succeed,” he said.

“Ash-Leigh’s commitment to sustainable farming and environmental protection is clear to see, and makes a real and positive difference in her local community and our industry.”

In another win for the south, the network’s inaugural Regional Leader of the Year award went to Mid-Canterbury farmer Tania Burrows.

The award recognises the grassroots efforts of more than 70 volunteer regional leaders raround the country.

The other finalists were Sue Skelton, who is farming southwest of Whangarei near Waiotira, Central Southland sharemilker Jessica Goodwright, and North Canterbury contract milker Rebecca Green.

Network chief executive Jules Benton said regional leaders were the lifeblood of the organisation.

“All four finalists showed a real passion for leadership and for making a real difference, not only in their farm roles but for the network and in their personal lives as well. All were committed to ensure the dairy industry thrives.”

Burrows said it was a “huge honour” to be the first winner of the award.

“I have a real passion for helping people grow,” she said.

“My goal is to be able to support regional leaders with a mentor programme to grow themselves as leaders in their communities and in the industry.”

Burrows and her husband are lower order sharemilkers farming 2000 head of stock between their dairy farm and runoff block.

She began her leadership journey as an early childhood teacher, progressing to management roles where she was responsible for up to 150 children, their families and a team of seven teaching staff.

Now involved full time in their dairy business she volunteers as a regional leader for the Dairy Women’s Network and dabbles in leadership coaching.

Dairy farmers can do more together than individually.

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