NZ Avocado Growers’ Association Inc. appoints first female Chair as the industry leads the way in diversity
The New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association Inc. announced the appointment of Linda Flegg as Chair following the October board meeting. Linda, director of the orchard Morris Moore Farms and post-harvest company Kauripak, and a New Zealand Avocado Grower Association (NZAGA) representative, is the first female to obtain this position in the 40-year history of the industry organization.
While Linda believes that it should be the best person for the role regardless of gender, she says she is very happy there are better support networks to enable women to realize their potential, especially in horticulture.
“Women have to put their hand up for leadership roles and I think that more of us are doing that across the horticulture sector,” says Linda. Formally stepping into the role in October, she was elected as an NZAGA representative and NZ Avocado Industry director in 2016 and elected Vice Chair in 2018.
NZ Avocado Industry director Karen Pickford says Linda is absolutely the right choice for the role of Chair. “Her plentiful amount of experience in the industry, plus her knowledge as a packer, means she is a great all-rounder. Growing up as an avocado orchardist, she has a wealth of knowledge and is very passionate about the sector,” says Karen.
“Kiwis and the world need good quality fruit and vegetables and I think horticulture is the future of New Zealand,” says Linda.
Linda believes it is an exciting time to be in the avocado industry, and she is looking forward to being an integral part of enhancing the opportunities and tackling the challenges that may impact the industry during the next few years.
“Environment and sustainability are going to be a huge challenge but we are already talking in that space. Ensuring that those coming into the industry are doing their due diligence so they are aware of the challenges as well as the opportunities is important.
“Avocado orchards are often a popular lifestyle choice, which is fine if you do not rely on it for your bread and butter. Orchardists are producing food so must meet strict food safety compliance, and for export must meet mandatory industry standards. Smaller holdings sometimes find these compliance costs expensive and challenging to manage but ensuring our food is safe is hugely important.
“Consumer expectation around the environmental sustainability of avocados may also add additional costs to how avocados are grown. On the flip side, the global demand for avocados is fantastic, and the growth in production in New Zealand will create more jobs and attract more people to the horticulture industry,” says Ms. Flegg.
Linda has replaced Tony Ponder, who stepped down as Chair at the annual general meeting in August. Tony served as Chair since 2017, having served 16 years on the board.
The role of Chair was one of three appointments of the NZAGA. Alistair Nicholson was appointed Vice Chair, and Paula Kearns is a newly elected NZAGA At Large Representative and NZ Avocado Industry director. The board is made up of eight grower elected representatives and two exporter representatives. Paula joins Maria Watchorn, Karen Pickford, and Linda as female grower representatives.
“I stood for election for the At Large position because I wanted to bring my strategic and finance skills and experience. It is also fantastic to join such a diverse governance team and to have a great balance of people around the table,” says Paula Kearns, NZAGA Representative and NZ Avocado Industry director.
The industry now has a female Chair, three female board members and a female CEO, reflecting the gender diversity within the industry.
“As a grower, as well as a director, I notice that at least half of the growers attending industry field days and events are female, so it is important this is reflected in our leadership. It is great to see the diversity of male and female leaders across the industry, complimenting one another and allowing collaborative, meaningful and progressive conversations”, says Maria Watchorn, NZAGA Representative and NZ Avocado Industry director.
Research commissioned by industry collective Women in Horticulture shows significant gender disparity amongst senior roles in New Zealand’s horticulture industry.
Despite women representing 50 percent of workers in the industry, the UMR study found women held less than 20 percent of leadership positions, with women missing from the top tables of many of New Zealand’s horticultural organizations. The avocado industry is leading the way to bring better diversity into industry leadership.
Citrus NZ executive manager Rebecca Fisher, a member of Women in Horticulture, says the avocado industry is paving the way with a fantastic balance of leaders in governance.
“It is excellent to see Linda appointed to the role; she has not only well qualified but she is also a role model for women across the industry. It is encouraging to see there is a strong pipeline to empower and support women into leadership positions.”