An ob­vi­ous choice

The Orchardist - - >>Kiwifruit Labour Report -

Jes­sica Smith’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity’s Kel­logg Ru­ral Lead­er­ship Pro­gramme came with the sup­port of an an­nual Ze­spri schol­ar­ship of­fered to one per­son deemed es­pe­cially valu­able to the fu­ture of the ki­wifruit in­dus­try.

“Jes­sica was an ob­vi­ous choice,” said Ze­spri grower and ex­ter­nal re­la­tions gen­eral man­ager Dave Courtney when the schol­ar­ship was an­nounced.

“She is smart and fo­cused and, de­spite a rel­a­tively short time in our in­dus­try, has demon­strated huge abil­ity to in­flu­ence and lead M-aori ki­wifruit grow­ers in par­tic­u­lar.”

Just four years pre­vi­ously, the self-con­fessed Tai­hape-raised sheep and beef far­m­girl had no first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of ki­wifruit. “But I’m pas­sion­ate about M-aori land and I’m pas­sion­ate about our peo­ple, how to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for them, how to change their path­ways,” she said.

“And ki­wifruit is such a great op­por­tu­nity.” But even be­fore she had started her re­search, she was mind­ful that M-aori land own­ers were not in­ter­ested solely in the num­bers.

It mat­tered to them that ki­wifruit de­vel­op­ment could help im­prove soil health, pro­vide em­ploy­ment and op­por­tu­ni­ties for man­age­ment train­ing, as well as money to fund grants or schol­ar­ships for young peo­ple, she told Ze­spri.

“We look at so­cial and cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal ob­jec­tives as well as eco­nomic.”

Courtney said Ze­spri had sup­ported the 38-year-old Kel­logg pro­gramme for years and planned to con­tinue to the re­la­tion­ship.

“De­vel­op­ing great ru­ral lead­ers is key not only for our in­dus­try but for New Zealand as a whole. It’s a won­der­ful pro­gramme to be as­so­ci­ated with.”

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