Agricultural advocate Jessie Chan has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s Honours 2022.
Ms Chan, of Rakaia, was awarded the order of merit for her services to dairy and agriculture which she has been contributing to through various management and governance roles for the past 20 years.
Ms Chan, the current board chair of Ruralco, was the first provincial president of the Wellington Young Farmers’ Club between 2008 to 2009.
Between 2009 and 2017 she was on the Federated Farmers dairy section national executive and vice-president and chair of the dairy section of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers.
She has been a Fonterra shareholders councillor, an associate director of Dairy New Zealand and on the Land Use Futures Board.
She is a member of New Zealand Asian Leaders, an organisation aimed at accelerating Asian Leaders’ contributions to New Zealand.
She is a member of Super Diverse Women which showcases female leaders across all sectors of the community.
She was awarded Fonterra’s Dairy Woman of the Year in 2017, which led to the delivery of more than 40 presentations nationwide to empower women to think outside the square when contributing to businesses and communities.
Ms Chan has been a member of Ruralco board since 2013. She became chair last year with a focus on gender diversity and equity from the executive level through to the shop floors.
She was also recognised for her leadership style at the agricultural co-operative winning the 2021 Inspiring Leader Award at the Women in Governance Awards.
She was described as an inspirational role model, as a mum of two young sons, who balanced raising her boys, alongside dairy farming, several directorships, and board representation.
She operated with integrity, intelligence, and a huge dose of empathy and, on receiving the award, dedicated it to her father.
“He taught my siblings and I that we could be whatever we wanted to be and instilled in us that along the way we should help others to reach their potential, in whatever shape or form that might be,” she said, at the time.
Ms Chan has spent much of her career breaking down barriers and perceptions in an industry which had been traditionally male dominated.
“When you pause and consider it, farming has always been a family effort of both a husband-and-wife team. The role of women in farming is a critical one, and in our business partnership, we play to each other’s strengths. In the past women had roles that were less visible.
“What has changed, is women are now taking on more public roles in industry or corporate leadership, governance or executive management,” she said.
She is also a current director of Ngai Tahu Farming Limited, Alpine Energy Limited and Bioprotection Aotearoa.