Natalie Bowie grew up on a sheep and beef property in Northern Wairarapa. Plenty of time was spent on-farm as a kid, exploring and helping out where she could. She spent six years of summer holidays working in the shearing sheds scrapping together extra cash to help pay for University, which also sorted out her work ethic.
She did not go down a traditional ‘agriculture’ route in terms of tertiary education. This may have been because she had two brothers obsessed with farming so Natalie figured that 2 out of 3 of them in the sector was plenty enough. Needless to say, after studying both marketing and design at University and then spending a few years in various sales and marketing roles both here in New Zealand and the UK, she landed fair and square back in the primary sector. That was nine years ago, with a role at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre. "I loved seeing students come in fresh from school (mostly), grow, develop and walk away with great job prospects and skills." Seeing them graduate was a time she found incredibly satisfying.
After five years with Taratahi, a new adventure beckoned in the back blocks of the Gobi Desert in NW China. Through the New Zealand China Friendship Society - Wellington, Natalie was offered a chance to teach at a school in Gansu Province which was set up by New Zealander, Rewi Alley in the late 1940’s and which still runs today. Their philosophies around ‘hands and minds together’ learning fitted well with what she had learnt through Taratahi. While volunteering there, Natalie also spent a significant amount of time working with rural farmer cooperatives which really opened her eyes to the challenges of farming in a rather unique environment. She also did some consultancy work and was then fortunate enough to gain a 'Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia’ award which allowed her to move to Shanghai and study an intense Chinese language programme for a year. "This opened my eyes even more to the diversity of our world, with students hailing from all corners of the globe, thrown together in classrooms with blackboards and chalk and desks too small for us to even put our legs under, being taught to learn by rote…..it was a far cry from any education I had ever encountered."
Moving home to New Zealand after 18 months, Natalie's passion for the primary sector burned brighter than ever. She was lucky to be a part of the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme which helped her hone her skills even more and broadened her networks within the sector. Natalie's current role is with Red Meat Profit Partnership as their Communications Manager, although her role is wider than just communications. Natalie's core job is to ensure all of the stakeholders (including 11500 farmers) understand who they are, what they are doing, what benefits there are to the sector and ensure information is related in an appropriate and timely manner. "The concept of lifelong learning for me is fundamental to who I am and I am always looking out for the next opportunity to learn and grow."
What an interesting path you have had Natalie, one which has shaped you into who you are today. Your journey will strengthen your future experiences in the industry.