Farming Mums NZ

2013 –

Farming Mums NZ

2013 –

Theme: Rural

This essay written by Chanelle O’Sullivan was published online in Women together: a history of women's organisations in New Zealand in 2019.

Farming Mums NZ (FMNZ) is an online community that started in early 2013, when Anna Clark of Dannevirke set up a Facebook page with that name. It had about 160 followers when she asked for someone to take it over, and Chanelle O’Sullivan stepped in. Once it reached 600 followers she changed it to a Facebook group, which grew through word of mouth, early newspaper articles, and people inviting friends and family to join. The group was based around the idea of helping to break down the isolation that rural women face while farming, moving to an isolated or unfamiliar place, becoming part of a farming family or moving away from one. Its motto is ‘Supporting, Inspiring, Connecting’.

From its inception, the group built a solid reputation across the primary industries. Membership consistently grew by 60 to 80 new women every month, with surges after media attention. By May 2019, it was verging on 12,000 women, from all over New Zealand. The majority of members were mothers aged 24-34, but the full range included women aged from 17 to over 70.

The importance of a wide age range proved itself repeatedly, with each generation facing both different and similar issues which they could help each other deal with. The common interests that brought the group together were farming, parenting and everything that comes with these. By 2019, Chanelle O’Sullivan could state that she did not think there was any related subject that had not been either touched on or thoroughly investigated.

Over the years the number of posts received fluctuated from 50 to 150 a day, showing members’ strong engagement. A unique feature made available soon after the group began was the ability to post anonymous questions via the dedicated administration team. This function was used daily by members, reaching up to 10 posts a day. Often these involved matters which were confidential, embarrassing, or could breach employer/employee agreements.

Cookbook cover

Roxy Pritchard

Cover of Farming Mums NZ cookbook, 2016. Rather than using a food photo, the group chose a very realistic image of three ‘farming mums’ in their gumboots, with a young child.

Farming Mums also ran a number of projects, both non-profit and charity-based, such as selling Swanndri beanies and t-shirts with FMNZ logos. Members also came together in 2016 to produce a 100-page cookbook, professionally designed and photographed, and with the recipes double-checked. This proved to be extremely successful, and requests to buy copies were still being received in 2019. The project raised $30,000, split between the Rural Support Trust and St John Ambulance.

In 2016 O’Sullivan completed the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, focusing on ‘The Next Steps in Supporting our Rural Women’. This produced a wealth of research, providing direction for future growth. In 2018 FMNZ worked alongside Farmstrong to conduct research around rural women’s mental health, resulting in some very useful insights both for the group and for other agricultural-related organisations.

In March 2019 FMNZ launched the first project of a new growth phase, in order to reach and inspire more women to chase their goals and dreams, not letting rural living be a downfall, but in fact an opportunity. This was disseminated in the form of a weekly podcast, ‘The FMNZ Leveled Up Podcast’, featuring women and men within New Zealand’s primary industries who were achieving remarkable things, to help inspire members to think outside the box and provide them with case studies and contacts.

Chanelle O’Sullivan

Further sources

Farming Mums NZ website:

Facebook page: 

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