Farming couple team up after business course
North Otago sheep, beef and deer farmers, Jeff and Di Cleveland, are seeing more of each other as they team up after Di made two decisions that changed how she views her role in the business.
While some farming women seek jobs off-farm as their children leave home, for Di it was the opposite. Earlier this year she left her two-day-a-week job in town to commit full-time to the couple’s 864ha farming business near Oamaru.
The catalyst for Di’s decision was the renewed confidence and new skills she gained from the Understanding Your Farming Business programme run by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust and funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership.
“The second decision, which wasn’t an easy one, was to enrol in the programme in the first place,” recalls Di. “I was worried that I wouldn’t know enough about our business but Jeff was keen for me to do it and he even got a previous participant to encourage me as well.”
“I know how capable Di is and I was looking for extra support to really make the business hum,” says Jeff. “There’s so much more than the hands-on running to do now, with more paperwork and computer input needed. I knew Di could help take the pressure off me.”
In the end, Di told herself to ‘just get on with it’ and she enrolled in the four-month programme that engages sheep and beef farming women as critical partners in their businesses by building knowledge, skills and confidence. The course held in Kurow was one of 20 held nationally in 2017, each with about 16 participants for three full days plus a graduation event.
The couple credit the knowledge and confidence Di gained from the programme with improved communication, stronger financial focus, greater organisation and clearer direction.
“Understanding Your Farming Business also made me realise that it was time for Jeff and I to become a great dream team for the next 10 years and go for it,” says Di.
Jeff says that they have started to streamline things ‘to make sure we’re at the top of our game’. “We want to be ready to meet new demands in farming and take opportunities as they come up.
“New conversations about the farm have opened up. We talk about things while we’re out shifting breaks whereas before it was me by myself. “It feels great to be challenged by new questions Di is asking.”
Di’s organisational skills are being used across the business as she proactively introduces the little things that make a difference. Weekly staff meetings have improved communication with their staff member and new filing systems improved efficiency.
The course prompted Di and Jeff to review the financial tools they use and look into options that will help grow their business. Di now has the confidence to contribute to financial discussions with the farm’s accountant and banker. “Previously I would sit there quietly as I didn’t quite know what to ask but I’d say something to Jeff later on.”
Jeff encourages other farming women to give Understanding Your Farming Business a go. “It was such a positive thing for Di but it could easily have gone in the ‘too hard basket’. It’s great for us both now that she’s done it and is excited about the future.
“It was definitely the kickstart I needed,” Di concludes. “I now know I can contribute to the farm full-time and make a difference. I’m thrilled to bits about how it’s working out for us.”