The rural woman of the past was often perceived as the strong backbone of the homestead - cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids – but for many, like Maddy McLean of Wallingford, that’s an outdated stereotype, and there is a strong contribution made by them to the business side of the farm, too.
Maddy and her husband Andrew farm 1036 hectares (885 effective) of hill country about half an hour south of Waipukurau, trading lambs and bulls, as well as breeding ewes.
She’s quick to pay homage to the pioneering rural women of the past, who got involved in every aspect of the farm business, and says more women now work in the agri sector than ever before, in roles that might have been traditionally male-dominated.
“It’s really evolved, I think, from what the traditional role was for women, back in the day - I think it’s recognised that women are now a lot more involved in the business side of farming,” Maddy says.
“There’s also much more to it now – with the environmental regulation, health and safety, grants to apply for and nutrient budgets to organise, so there are plenty areas where I can contribute.”
The McLeans are among the best in the country at what they do, winning the Silver Fern Farms Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year award at this year’s Hawke’s Bay Primary Sector Awards, largely based on their stellar financial performance, but also on their efforts to create a sustainable, environmentally-friendly farm.
The pair met at Lincoln University, where Maddy studied landscape architecture, while Andrew studied farm management.