Michelle Pye

International Women’s Day – Michelle Pye

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Potatoes New Zealand connects with various women in the industry as part of International Women’s Day to discover the amazing work they do in the sector.

Name: Michelle Pye
Company: Pye Group

What do you do in your current role?

My husband Leighton and I own and operate Pye Group Ltd a cross sector agricultural business. I am also the Chair of Potato Seed Co-op, a Potatoes New Zealand Director and Timaru District Councillor.

What do you particularly enjoy about it? 

I love the variety and flexibility with the combination of roles I have. It is a good mix, which enables me to learn from different roles and apply some of what I learn to our own organisation.

How long have you been with your organisation?

Leighton and I have been farming together for nearly 22 years.

How do you find working in the potato industry/primary industries? 

I love that you can be part of the potato industry and wider agricultural industry without having to be a “gumboot” farmer. Although the Pyes have been growing potatoes for many years, I never really got that involved in the industry until I started working with a small group of McCain growers to help establish the Potato Seed Co-op in 2017. I’ve since joined the Potatoes New Zealand board and I love how the potato industry works together for better outcomes. In fact, that is something that you see across the entire agricultural industry.

Have you encountered any specific challenges? 

There have been lots of challenges along the way, but I see them as opportunities to learn and improve. Obviously trying to balance family, work and industry roles is very challenging at times but I’ve been lucky to have a good support network around me that has made that easier.

Please share any standout moments in your life?

Aside from lots of standout moments with our family, I’m really proud of what our group of McCain process growers have achieved with the establishment of Potato Seed Co-op and our purpose built storage facility in Ashburton.

What does your organisation do for inclusion and diversity?

Between our contracting business, dairy farms and cropping farms, we’ve always had a good mix of nationalities and genders as part of our group. In our office, we have very flexible working arrangements, which suits a number of our team who have school aged children. We also currently have two female truck drivers. One came to us through a training programme we supported that helped people to obtain their Class 5 licence and get into the transport industry. The other (her sister) joined us last year with a Class 4 licence and has just recently obtained her Class 5 licence.

What or who inspires you? 

The next generation inspires me. They are often seen as being lazy, entitled or ideological. However, I find them far more inclusive and compassionate, while not being afraid to challenge ideas or try new ways of doing things.

What do you wish you had known before you started in your profession?

There is lots, that I wish I had known before getting more involved in the potato industry, however no one starts on day one knowing everything. You have to start somewhere.

What would you tell another woman interested in working in the potato industry/primary industries?

There are so many opportunities in both the potato industry and the wider agricultural sector and it doesn’t matter if you’re a gumboot farmer or more suited to the office. This industry caters to variety and flexibility, where your skills will be valued. You just need to find your place to thrive.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality. Find out more at www.internationalwomensday.