From left: UYFB facilitiator Justine Kidd, AWDT executive director Lindy Nelson and facilitator Sam Orsborn at one of the UYFB pilot programmes held in 2014.
A programme to improve on-farm performance and profitability of sheep and beef farmers by developing the business skills of farming women is being funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).
Funding from RMPP will see up to 160 sheep and beef farming women throughout New Zealand complete the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s (AWDT) Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) programme during 2015.
Successfully piloted last year with 90 women by the AWDT, in partnership with Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the programme equips farming women with the business knowledge, skills and confidence to better engage as critical farming partners.
The Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) is a unique collaboration between nine industry partners and the Government who are coordinating efforts to increase profitability and productivity in the red meat sector. All investment is centred behind the farm gate, aligning with the recommendations in the Red Meat Sector Strategy. The UYFB programme is one of the first RMPP-funded activities to roll out to farmers.
“We welcome this investment in women who make up 50 percent of our sector but who have usually gained their skills through default rather than design,” AWDT executive director Lindy Nelson said. “The RMPP support enables us to extend our targeted development to women in farming partnerships while creating change agents to help achieve the Government’s goal of doubling agricultural sector exports by 2025.”
RMPP General Manager, Duncan McKinnon said the AWDT programme fitted extremely well with the aims of the RMPP. “We’ve done some very comprehensive research into the characteristics of high performing farmers and a common factor is the family farming partnership. Those businesses where the husband and wife and wider family unit work together in the business are generally pretty successful.”
Nelson said the demand for this type of development was huge. “The UYFB pilot could have been filled three times over last year in each of the three regions it was delivered.
“Over the next five years AWDT aims for at least 10% of NZ sheep and beef farming women to complete the programme; support from the RMPP is a positive step towards achieving this.”
The programme, consisting of one day workshops run by industry experts over three months, empowers women to view themselves and their roles differently, while giving them technical and communication skills to make a greater contribution.
They gain a better understanding of what drives a farming business, how to measure farm performance and potential, and how to assess financial information. Women learn how to play a greater role in decision making, and apply communication and change-making skills to help improve profitability. Their partner gets involved through homework between workshops and a get-together in the last session.
The pilot programme produced impressive results. “All of the participants now measured and monitored their farm business performance, 95 percent understood how banks assess risk and 80 percent had made budgeting changes,” Nelson said. “Programme evaluations estimated that business changes initiated by women on the programme added up to $20,000 profit to the farm bottom line.”
Beginning in late February, UYFB will be held in Amberley, Ashburton, Hamilton, Te Kuiti, Wellsford and Kerikeri with four further venues to be confirmed later this year. There is no cost to participants and each programme is limited to sixteen women. Programme information can be found at www.awdt.org.nz