Women in Horticulture – Stephanie Wrathall
Stephanie Wrathall left university with plans to enter the advertising and creative arts field – but life’s twists and turns took her career on another path, leading eventually to horticulture.
A keen athlete, Stephanie competed at a national level in javelin until a rotator cuff injury and subsequent long recovery took her out of the sport shortly after she graduated from Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
“So, I decided to take a gap year and work for Camp America,” says Stephanie who is today senior account manager with United Fresh New Zealand Incorporated.
“Working for Camp America was both the hardest and the most rewarding job I’d ever done, and it also made me realise I enjoyed working with children.”
Growing up in Waiwera, Stephanie was a student at Orewa College before attending AUT, majoring in creative art.“i did several placements while at university and found advertising and copywriting was not as creatively freeing as I had thought they would be.”
She also had a summer job with Work and Income, managing hardship applications.“i started at Helensville and then moved to the Orewa office. It was quite sobering to find out that I lived in that community without realising the hardships so many people faced.”
Those experiences made Stephanie grateful for her own upbringing, including a mum who is a great cook and a family who enjoys a diet of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“As an athlete I was also conscious of the importance of eating healthily and including lots of fresh produce.”
When, seven years ago, the chance to join the team at United Fresh arose, Stephanie saw it as a great fit for her interests, skills and experiences.
The work of United Fresh, which is the only pan-produce organisation in New Zealand, includes supporting and promoting the fresh produce industry, working with the entire value chain, from seed producers to growers to consumers, providing leadership on pan-produce issues.
That brings variety to Stephanie’s role which can include working on biosecurity, food safety, traceability, supply chain management, compliance, communications and public relations, research projects and government liaison. “No two days are the same, which is great.”
The Fruit & Vegetables in Schools programme is another aspect of her work which Stephanie particularly enjoys, because of the positive benefits it brings to children and school communities.
“Fruit & Vegetables in Schools is now in its 15th year and reaches 553 schools and more than 123,000 children in 21 regions, delivering more than 25 million servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every year.
“The initiative is supported by educational material about why fruit and vegetables are healthy, how they grow and where they come from.”
At United Fresh Stephanie is also involved in supporting the work of the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust, formed in 2007 for the benefit of the general public and specifically the children of New Zealand.
This highly recognised and respected education and promotion initiative encourages all Kiwis to eat five or more servings of colourful, fresh fruit and vegetables every day for health and vitality. 5+ A Day is responsible for a variety of nutrition education and marketing initiatives and the brand is recognised by more than 90% of New Zealanders.
“Our latest initiative is to encourage Kiwis to eat more fruit and vegetables at breakfast. Follow us on social media to see this in action @5adaynz.”
While horticulture didn’t figure in Stephanie’s initial career plans, she is delighted to be working in an industry which offers so much variety, and is grateful for the opportunity, through 5+ A Day and Fruit & Vegetables in Schools, to make a difference in people’s lives.
Now, with her shoulder injury resolved, Stephanie has returned to competitive javelin, winning at the nationals last year and competing in Australia this summer.
Would she recommend a career in horticulture to other women? “Most definitely.”
To keep up to date on Women in Horticulture news and activities, join our membership database by emailing info@ women-in-hort.nz. We welcome everyone in New Zealand horticulture who is interested in this exciting initiative.