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Inspiring young women to make their mark in agriculture

International Women’s Day 2023

Laura McQuillan-Reese is blazing a trail for other young women to make their mark in agriculture and seize opportunities to take leadership roles in the industry.

Laura joined Perrin Ag from Lincoln University in February 2022 through the firm’s Empower Graduate Advisor Development Programme.

Since beginning her tertiary studies, she has learnt from and worked alongside an array of natural leaders. Despite the notion that agriculture may traditionally have been a male-dominated industry, Laura believes there is opportunity for females to step into leadership roles. A trend that is evident at Perrin Ag and is improving within the wider agricultural sector.

“I have been fortunate to work alongside a lot of female leaders who have an exceptional ability to apply an overarching lens to things,” she says.

“They have a knack for stepping back, seeing the full picture and providing informed leadership to businesses. There is some space for questioning our ‘status quo’ within that thinking, which has contributed to significant growth in the industry. These skills and traits are a huge asset.”

Laura believes the need for more innovators and communicators means young women have a vital role to play in the future of New Zealand’s primary sectors.

“There’s concern from many young women that I meet or have in my networks that they’re not experienced enough or won’t be respected in agriculture. The fact is, there is a wealth of opportunity out there for women to thrive and make a real difference in our industry. I also believe the support is there for those wanting to contribute and step up.”

Raised on a sheep farm in the small town of Hawarden near Christchurch, Laura spent her formative years on the farm alongside her family. It’s where her affinity grew with agriculture.

Although her high school years were spent away from Hawarden, Laura’s aptitude for agriculture was nurtured through her school’s agricultural science classes and continuing rural connections through her local NZ Young Farmers’ TeenAg Club, and time out on local farms.

Though Laura’s career accomplishments haven’t solely rested on her natural know-how, her hands-on farm experience and intentional self-direction has fast-tracked her success. 

“Whether I am on-farm or working at a government level, I am grateful to have that grassroots perspective to guide my decision making,” she says.

The nature of Laura’s role with Perrin Ag has her working across New Zealand’s primary sector, creating solutions for a multiplicity of needs.

“I already have opportunities to add real value to businesses, whether that is supporting boards of trustees, working in partnership with farm owners to drive strategic business goals, or just being a helping hand to someone that needs it,” says Laura.

“It is particularly fulfilling to work alongside farmers in a way that brings them autonomy and gives them confidence to make decisions about their farm business.”

Laura finds her role exceptionally rewarding. However, she says it can be disheartening to see the mental fatigue clients are experiencing because of how complex the industry has become and the amount of change they are facing.   

“If a client is feeling overwhelmed, our team can help them work through the issues and reinvigorate the spark for farming they may feel they have lost. It can be challenging to navigate such huge industry change, so it is important they still feel in control of their business.” 

Building trusted partnerships with its farming and horticultural clients is an integral part of the way Perrin Ag works, both behind and beyond the farm gate. It’s an approach that resonates with Laura.

“The Perrin Ag team goes above and beyond to exhibit care and interest in the success of our clients,” says Laura. “It is this authentic way of working that has seen some of the firm’s business relationships span more than 20 years. I am proud to be contributing to that.”