Fit­ting right in

A chance to de­velop her gov­er­nance skills on the HortNZ board was too good for its new as­so­ciate direc­tor to pass by.

NZ Grower - - Your Levy At Work - By Elaine Fisher

Kate Tru­fitt’s de­ci­sion to set­tle in Gis­borne in 1997 set her on a ca­reer path she hadn’t fore­seen and helped lead to her re­cent ap­point­ment as as­so­ciate direc­tor of Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ.

“I grew up in Whakatane and af­ter trav­el­ling over­seas, worked in in­te­rior de­sign but when my hus­band Mark and I moved to Gis­borne I found there wasn’t much call for those skills, so be­came in­volved in hor­ti­cul­ture,” she said.

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the di­ver­sity of op­por­tu­ni­ties the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try of­fers has seen her work for five dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies in sev­eral roles which have brought both chal­lenges and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment. Her cur­rent role is group com­pli­ance and safety man­ager as well as av­o­cado busi­ness man­ager with Apata Group, which she en­joys im­mensely.

When the op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply for the HortNZ as­so­ciate direc­tor ap­point­ment arose, Kate de­cided this pre­sented a chance to de­velop her gov­er­nance skills.

“I have been in man­age­ment po­si­tions for a num­ber of years now but had no for­mal gov­er­nance ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. >

“I’m de­lighted to have been ap­pointed to the role and ex­cited at the prospect of broad­en­ing my ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­er­nance.”

HortNZ has es­tab­lished the as­so­ciate di­rec­tor­ship as a de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity for a fu­ture in­dus­try leader to join its board and gain ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­er­nance, lead­er­ship and strat­egy while bring­ing their own hor­ti­cul­tural knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to the board ta­ble. The as­so­ciate direc­tor also has the op­por­tu­nity to be men­tored by an in­dus­try leader and re­ceive a con­tri­bu­tion to­wards their gov­er­nance train­ing.

This is a non-vot­ing role, but the board seeks full par­tic­i­pa­tion in meet­ings and wel­comes con­struc­tive con­tri­bu­tions from the as­so­ciate direc­tor to the work­ings of the board.

Kate said by tak­ing up the ap­point­ment she also hopes to be­come a role model for other women keen to step into gov­er­nance.

“Too of­ten I think we women un­der­es­ti­mate our­selves and there­fore don’t put our­selves for­ward for lead­er­ship roles,” she said.

“There’s of­ten not a clear path to­wards gov­er­nance for women, and those which do ex­ist are prob­a­bly not well known. I en­cour­age women to seek out op­por­tu­ni­ties and give gov­er­nance a go.” Seek­ing out op­por­tu­ni­ties and tak­ing on chal­lenges is what Kate has done through­out her ca­reer. Her first hor­ti­cul­tural job was as lo­gis­tics man­ager with Ce­denco Foods New Zealand which pro­duces nat­u­ral fruit and veg­etable in­gre­di­ents for in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

“There I gained a good ground­ing in sup­ply chain man­age­ment and ex­port mar­ket phy­tosan­i­tary re­quire­ments,” she said.

“It was a great in­tro­duc­tion to the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try.”

In her next move Kate be­came client ser­vices man­ager for River­sun, one of New Zealand’s pre­mium sup­pli­ers of cer­ti­fied av­o­cado trees and ki­wifruit vines and a lead­ing sup­plier of cer­ti­fied grafted grapevines.

“In 2005 River­sun and the New Zealand av­o­cado in­dus­try em­barked on a joint ven­ture to im­port 15 new av­o­cado cul­ti­vars and clonal root­stock. River­sun had es­tab­lished a post-en­try quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity for the plants. I learnt a lot about biose­cu­rity, man­ag­ing nurs­ery trees, graft­ing and us­ing clonal ma­te­rial graft­ing tech­niques, also de­vel­op­ing new or­chards and vine­yards dur­ing my time with River­sun.”

Her next move was to Ka­iaponi, also in Gis­borne, a lead­ing grower of ap­ples, ki­wifruit and fei­joas. “This was yet an­other di­verse role in which I was re­spon­si­ble for the mar­ket­ing and ex­port of ap­ples and the mar­ket man­age­ment and distri­bu­tion of the lo­cal citrus pro­gramme.”

Her role also in­cluded work­ing with grow­ers, the re-de­vel­op­ment of the com­pany’s health and safety stan­dards, plus phy­tosan­i­tary stan­dards and sup­ply-chain co-or­di­na­tion.

When her hus­band was ap­pointed to a role at the Auckland War Me­mo­rial Mu­seum, Kate joined the Auck­land­based com­pany, Fresh Di­rect, which is in­volved in fresh pro­duce ex­port and lo­cal mar­ket distri­bu­tion. Shortly af­ter join­ing the com­pany, she was asked to take on the hu­man re­sources and safety man­age­ment role.

“We had three branches and about 300 staff. It was chal­leng­ing and a big learn­ing curve, but I would rec­om­mend any­one in man­age­ment to take on HR at some time in their ca­reer be­cause it helps de­velop a whole new set of skills.”

In 2015 Kate moved to the Bay of Plenty to be closer to fam­ily and to the role with Apata Group where she leads three busi­ness func­tions.

“It’s a re­ally busy role with 140 plus per­ma­nent staff and 1000 sea­sonal work­ers,” she said.

“I wear three hats, look­ing af­ter com­pli­ance and health and safety, plus the av­o­cado busi­ness. Apata’s high stan­dards of com­pli­ance and phy­tosan­i­tary re­quire­ments is among the rea­sons we were one of the first com­pa­nies to ex­port av­o­ca­dos to China this year.”

She looks for­ward to en­gag­ing and adding value to the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try and grow­ers through her as­so­ciate di­rec­tor­ship op­por­tu­nity.

Too of­ten I think we women un­der­es­ti­mate our­selves and there­fore don't put our­selves for­ward for lead­er­ship roles.

◀ Kate Tru­fitt – a wide range of hor­ti­cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence has led to her lat­est chal­lenge.

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