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Always on the go: Celebrating dairy farmers this International Women’s Day – DairyNZ

Siobhan O’Malley is a dairy farmer, innovator, businesswoman and community volunteer. A great example of the thousands of Kiwi dairy farming women throughout New Zealand who multi-task every day to contribute positively to their communities.

For Siobhan, there’s never a dull day – she’s also a high school teacher, president of her children’s gymnastics club, small business owner and her family enjoy being involved in sustainability initiatives.

DairyNZ GM Alyce Butler says International Women’s Day (Friday 8 March) is a great opportunity to celebrate the amazing contribution of rural women across all aspects of Kiwi life.

“About one third of dairy farmers are women and they contribute hugely every day to our sector, communities, local economies, schools, sports and sustainability initiatives,” Alyce says.

“The dairy sector is evolving and becoming a more inclusive and diverse workforce with varying needs and wants. We’re developing new ways of working – different milking schedules, varied rosters and new technology – all of which support efficient farm systems and inclusive workplaces.”

Siobhan and fellow dairy farmer Wayne Langford co-founded the Meat the Need charity, which helps feed Kiwis in need so they don’t go hungry. Farmers throughout the country donate meat and milk, which the charity provides to foodbanks and other community groups dealing with food poverty in NZ.

“Meat the Need is hugely successful. We’ve achieved more in three years than we thought we would in 10 years because farmers really got behind it,” Siobhan says.

“I get involved in my community in the things that I believe are really important and that I’m passionate about. By working together in our communities, we achieve so much more.”

Siobhan didn’t always live on a dairy farm. She grew up in Christchurch and graduated with a Master’s degree in classical studies. She met husband Christopher when he was a tour guide in the Abel Tasman and later in Dublin, Ireland. They went dairy farming together after Christopher worked for his brother, who was sharemilking, and fell in love with it.

The couple own their own farm in Hokitika and enjoy teaching their children about farming and the environment. They plant native trees on their property, which give native birds places to rest and feed.

“With farming, I love being the master of my own destiny and the whole family is involved. Our children Finnian (12), Aisling (10) and Ruairi (7), know more about running a business than I did at 18,” Siobhan says.

On the business side, Siobhan and two other farmer friends she met at the Kellogg Rural Leadership course have created luxury knitwear company, Hemprino – an e-commerce start-up.

Hemprino is made from hemp fibre and merino wool. “The hemp fibre strengthens the merino and the knitwear is soft. It’s biodegradable which is important to us – we believe everyone should be reducing their environmental footprint where they can,” Siobhan says.

South Auckland dairy farmer Amber Carpenter is also making a difference to her local community and New Zealand. After a career in fashion, she swapped high heels for gumboots to focus on the family farm with husband Fraser. She says farming is a great career allowing her to be at home with her children Oliver (6) and Noah (3).

Amber chairs the Dairy Environment Leaders – a network of 400 environmentally focused farmers created by farmers, DairyNZ and the NZ Farm Environment Trust in 2007. The network aims to empower leadership and create opportunities to support and share on-farm actions to reduce environmental footprint.

Amber says the opportunities and people in the dairy sector are amazing. “Farmers always have time to help others. They share ideas and give advice, and you know people are there for you should you need them. It’s great to be part of such a positive and engaging sector.”

Captions:

  • Dairy farmer Siobhan O’Malley loves contributing to her local community, farming and e-commerce.
  • Behind many great women is a great family. Dairy farmer Siobhan O’Malley with husband Christopher and children Finnian (12), Ruairi (7) and Aisling (10)
  • Dairy Environment Leaders chair Amber Carpenter is committed to a postitive and sustainable future for New Zealand dairy farming

 

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