For Chris (Christine) Paterson, growing a strong community is just as important as producing milk.
Chris and husband Jamie started farming together as sharemilkers on the flat peat soils of Gordonton before purchasing their own 65 hectare farm at Reporoa in 1987. It was during their time in Reporoa that Chris learnt the true meaning of the term ‘community spirit’. “Neighbours cared and looked out for each other. We all worked together to get the jobs done on the farm and in the community,” says Chris.
After nine years at Reporoa they purchased a bare block at Kaharoa and set about converting it to a dairy farm called Hameldaeme (‘Home will do me’ in Gaelic). They currently milk 285 cows on 120ha, being the second smallest dairy farm in the district.
Juggling farm work with her numerous community activities is a constant challenge. Chris is currently the chairperson of the Kaharoa Community Association, a member of Federated Farmers, Lions and Rural Women NZ. Her busiest role at present is secretary for the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective.
Considering herself a shy person, Chris was thrown into the limelight this year when she took out the 2014 Dairy Women’s Network Community Leadership Award. “I was decidedly anxious about being nominated and even tried hard to talk my way out of being selected as a finalist. I decided it was all part of life’s lessons and I should embrace the experience and learn from it. Winning the award has given me more confidence in myself and I find myself stepping up and speaking up a little more these days, ” says Chris.
For Chris the Dairy Women’s Network epitomises the benefits of community based learning. She believes it provides a great opportunity to improve knowledge and network with other women. “I love the Dairy days and make a concerted effort to attend as many as I can. The calf rearing days are invaluable in that everyone shares their best tips. At the end of the day, it’s all about learning from each other,” says Chris.