16 Mar 2018

From cow paddocks to corporate offices

From Country Life, 9:40 pm on 16 March 2018

West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne is the first female president of Federated Farmers in 118 years.

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Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Katie is loving the challenge but now spends a lot more time in corporate offices and city hotels than on the scenic family farm at Rotomanu on the West Coast.

Katie's daughter Andi and her son-in-law Simon have taken over the day-to-day running of the dairy operation in the absence of Katie and her husband Ian, who does agricultural contracting.

"They've come home and are on the farm permanently and that's actually why I can get away and be involved with the farming politics like I do," she says.

If she's lucky she might get a day on the farm a week.

Katie chats with children from Grey Main School in Greymouth.

Katie chats with children from Grey Main School in Greymouth. Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Katie's work at Federated Farmers covers a wide range of topics from dealing with environmental and animal welfare issues to improving the image of farming by highlighting positive stories from the rural sector.

Farming leadership comes naturally to Katie who has always believed in a fair deal for farmers.

One of the biggest challenges she's determined to tackle is the growing divide between rural and urban people.

More school tours to farms would be a good starting point, she says.

"We're so disconnected now, everyone used to have a cousin, auntie, nana or granddad on a farm that you could go out and stay with, but that's getting less and less, so to expose them to how food's produced and the effort that goes into that is really, really critical going forward, I think."