Charlotte Montgomery's story began when her parents left town and went dairy farming when she was 7, a decision Charlotte is very grateful for. Getting off the school bus at the cow shed, homework in the car, then helping in the shed (more playing in poo and with the calves) was normal for her and her siblings. Charlotte's love of rural life grew into the love of all things horses, much to her parents initial horror as neither of them had much of an affinity to the four legged creatures. Although they soon came round after seeing the benefits during her teen years when this love kept her afternoons and weekends busy- too busy to notice boys!
After school, Charlotte trained in vet nursing and was lucky enough to get a job in a busy mixed animal practice in Gore. When the dairy industry boomed she traded the small animals for large and became a rural animal technician, completing her certificate by correspondence. Along came marriage, and the birth of her first child. The couple made the big move away from South Otago and their equity share milking position, to their own sole 50/50 position milking 250 cows in Lincoln, Canterbury. Charlotte became a full time calf rearer, accounts manager and relief milker all with daughter in tow. Learning on the job, she gained a new appreciation for the financial side of the farm, and now has a much better understanding of budgets and cashflows.
After their second child, the payout dropped, Charlotte looked for work else where to help support the family. She was employed by the National Trade Academy (NTA) to tutor Level 2 Animal Care to teens. "I pride myself in knowing I am helping students learn how to confidently care for animals, where their food comes from and what is involved in the process. This job presented challenges in it self but was super rewarding as it allowed the students to achieve in an environment outside of a standard classroom." Charlotte sees huge value in institutes like these, educating youth on what the farming industry has to offer, from a role in a vet clinic, farm store, processing plant, or pet store. "Having an insight and education into agriculture while still young will help shape the future of our sector."
Currently Charlotte and her family are knuckling down over the low payout years. Sacrificing hobbies, horses have had to take a backseat, all while reducing staff levels on farm. Charlotte's financial role has become even more important. While things are tight on farm, never has animal health been sacrificed. Keeping their cows well fed and maintained, production has lifted, empty rate decreased and overall farm profitability increased in what is deemed some of the worst years farming.
Charlotte believes that woman's role in agriculture is vital, whether it be on farm, office, classroom, or support roles such as veterinary, stores or consultancy. "There is no role we can't do, and I feel lucky that our industry allows me to do all this while sharing it with my family." Your hard work will pay off Charlotte and your passionate efforts to make the industry more recognised by New Zealand's youth will impact both them and the rest of us living and working in the primary industries.