An obvious choice
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.”