With a background in the resource and environmental management field and in local government, Karen Williams is combining her experience with her passion for the agri-sector. She recognises the importance for farmers and the agri-sector engage better with local, regional and central government so that they can be more environmentally and economically sustainable.

Managing the environmental demands with the economic demands of farming is important for Karen and her husband Mick in their own farming operation. They currently farm a 224ha property at Gladstone in the Wairarapa. Their farming operation specialises in mixed cropping and beef and lamb finishing, and they also run an agricultural contracting business. Karen’s role in the farm business is primarily focused on management, strategy and compliance, though she looks forward to the days when she is “hands-on” on the farm. She balances this with three busy school-age children, coaching hockey and pursuing her interest in governance and leader-ship within the agri-sector.

In 2013 they won the Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award for the Wellington Region. “We believe we live and work in a really special place and that we have a responsibility to look after it. Whilst our vision is to grow a successful business, this will be achieved while maintain-ing the high quality of our soils, improving the quality of freshwater and through continued habitat enhancement.”

With a genuine willingness to enhance relationships between farmers and local, regional and central government, and non-governmental groups and interest groups, Karen wants to see the agricultural-industry work more collaboratively where they share common goals and objectives. “This is essential to contribute to a more vibrant, sustainable and profitable provincial or rural New Zealand.”

2015 saw Karen complete the Agri-Women’s Development Trust Escalator Programme in Leadership and Governance. This has led to further opportunities in the primary industries. She is involved in a number of groups in the agri-sector, one of these being Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Farming Reference Group. Karen’s role is to provide advice and recommendations on matters concerning Council functions as they relate to the wellbeing of the region’s farming communities. She was also appointed as the arable representative on the Ministry for Primary Industries Governance Group in 2016 for the response to the Wairarapa pea weevil incursion. Known as the “Pea Weevil Lady”, she had a key role in lobbying government for ex gratia compensation payments for growers who were prohibited from growing peas, and securing funding to develop a future focused cropping strategy for the Wairarapa. In June 2017 Karen was awarded the inaugural Federated Farmers ‘Biosecurity Farmer of the Year’ award for her leadership in this area.

Karen you are a fantastic advocate for farming and the primary industries! A mover and a shaker, we are lucky to have people like you involved in high level decision making to ensure that the agriculture sector is well represented!