Ngāi Tahu farmer Ash-Leigh Campbell is one of three aspiring Young Farmers to be recognised for their leadership qualities with the inaugural NZ Young Farmers 2016 Excellence Award.
Ash-Leigh (Ngāi Tahu – Kāti Huirapa, Kāti Hāwea, Ruahikihiki; Waitaha; Mamoe), says the award will have a massive impact in terms of building her connection to Ngāi Tahu and to the business side of her career.
Ash-Leigh is currently the sustainability co-ordinator for Ngāi Tahu Farming in Christchurch, working on sustainability issues around kaimoana, landscape, ecosystems and waterways within the organisation. She is a strong advocate for sustainability within the dairy industry and she is delighted to be part of an organisation that is leading the way.
“There has been a significant forward shift over the last five years and the dairy industry is now looking much more deeply at its farming practices. Ngāi Tahu Farming is heavily involved in sustainability research and development with Lincoln University and it’s great to be a part of the educational process and seeing advanced technology implemented in the field,” she says.
Prior to starting at Ngāi Tahu Farming in October, Ash-Leigh, 26, had spent a number of years studying and working on farms in the Canterbury region. In the process, she has become much more in tune with her Ngāi Tahu whakapapa.
“I found out about the Whenua Kura Scholarship three weeks before I started a Diploma in Agriculture at Lincoln University; and I knew my mother was connected to the iwi but otherwise I knew nothing of my Ngāi Tahu side.
“I started at Whenua Kura in 2015 and it’s thanks to that two-year programme, I discovered I affiliated to Puketeraki Marae in Karitāne and that my family were once whalers.”
Ash-Leigh says her reconnection to the iwi has had a huge impact on her life.
“It has made me feel much more grounded and confident. I now know where I belong and it feels great to be giving back to the iwi through my work.”
Although she has always loved working out in the field, she now finds herself more attracted to agribusiness and her transition from paddock to office desk has been seamless as a result. She finds herself constantly challenged and while there are days she does miss being out on the farm, she is confident that her career will go further in agribusiness.
Ash-Leigh brings a string of successes to her current role – from her ability to work as a farm manager to her training in artificial insemination, and her success as a finalist in the 2016 Ahuwhenua Young Māori Fairy Farmer of the Year awards. She is currently vice-chair of the Tasman Regional Young Farmers group.