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Shepherdess publisher rounds up the stories

Kirsty McGregor is no stranger to remote living.

Before moving to New Zealand about 10 years ago, she lived on a cattle station in far western Queensland where the nearest social event might be “six or eight hours’ drive away” and, on the way, she’d “pass through little towns with maybe 30 people living in them”.

However, the sense of isolation she felt when she moved with her husband, a dairy farmer, to his sixth-generation family farm in a remote area of Horowhenua “came as a shock”.

‘It was very different. I struggled quite a bit, feeling isolated and trying to find a sense of community.”

McGregor realised she wasn’t alone: “Other women living rurally were feeling isolated.”

What McGregor did about it wasn’t typical: in 2020, with “no experience in publishing”, she started Shepherdess, a quarterly magazine that shares the “great source of comfort” of telling women’s stories.

Apart from the publication of some stories on the Shepherdess website, the magazine is a physical product, McGregor explained.

“It’s about physically holding something – you know, taking a moment for yourself.”

The photography featured alongside the stories is also an important part of the Shepherdess aesthetic, she said.

“Beautiful and authentic photography representing rural life is really important. Stories are elevated when you put beautiful imagery together with the words –
it has so much more impact.”

McGregor, who worked in Wairarapa for a time before settling on the West Coast, swapped Horowhenua for Masterton’s Ranfurly Club recently to talk to Women Who Make the Calls [WWMTC] – a “supportive peer circle for women leaders and those curious about diverse leadership” founded by Masterton businesswoman Mena Antonio.

In New Zealand’s oldest women’s club [which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year], McGregor shared her adventures in publishing, as well as her television series ‘Shepherdess: Three Women on the Land’, and The Muster, a not-for-profit retreat and festival, for WWMTC’s winter gathering.

“Kristy captivated our circle with her journey of falling in love with rural communities, empowering women, and telling their stories,” WWMTC committee member Lucy Griffiths told Times-Age.

“Her vision of success, coupled with her ability to transform challenges into opportunities, is inspirational.

“Through her leadership, she has brought together a team of 12 staff who collectively tell the stories of enterprising rural women in NZ. Her limitless energy and dedication promise exciting future developments for Shepherdess and her broader vision.”

In its four years of publication, Shepherdess has covered the stories of several Wairarapa women, including Wairarapa Shepherd of the Year Hannah Vallance, Pirinoa’s Jacqui Sutherland, Masterton’s New Forest School founder Hella Coenen, and Wairarapa-born Naomi Aporo-Manihera, whose marriage to Hamuera Aporo-Manihera featured in the October 2022 edition.

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