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Busy farmer striding ahead


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Gladstone farmer Karen Williams wants to promote the country’s arable industry as the sustainable food producer that it is, in her new roles of Federated Farmers’ arable chairwoman, both nationally and for Wairarapa.

While her plate has suddenly become heaped with industry roles, Williams is committed to representing the New Zealand farmer.

She is widely known for her countless hours of hard work in response to the Wairarapa pea weevil incursion, with the region’s pea-growing ban now into its third year.

The arable industry was a small sector within the country’s agriculture and was often seen as the “forgotten sector”, she said.

But with her new roles, Williams would like to see more of an emphasis put on the country’s arable story.

It was announced Williams would replace Guy Wigley, from Waimate, in the national role at the Federated Farmers’ arable industry conference in Timaru recently.

Wigley also sat on the national board, and held portfolios including biosecurity, fire, science, transport regulations, and the pork industry.

It is expected Williams will also take on these portfolios.

Williams said she would like to see the country’s high-quality feed used at home.

“My understanding is New Zealand imports much of its wheat for the breakfast cereal market from Australia, so I would like to see us having that provenance story, that we have locally-produced grain with good environmental standards going into those New Zealand products and support the local industry.

“But that needs to be balanced with trade obligations.”

This would significantly decrease the country’s biosecurity risk, she said.

The arable industry had potential to fill an important niche as changes to diets turned to more plant-based products, she said.

Williams holds several other roles in the community, including being a member of Greater Wellington Regional Council’s farming reference group, and she is also involved with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

She is an arable industry representative on the Ministry for Primary Industries pea weevil response governance group.

Williams, who grew up in Masterton, has a geography degree with a masters in regional and resource planning from the University of Otago.

She has worked for the Hutt City Council and Greater Wellington as a policy adviser and planner.

She has been farming at Ahiaruhe farm in Gladstone for 18 years.

Despite her workload, Williams said her three children and the farm she runs with her husband Mick will remain her primary focus.

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