Women in Ag: Kate Taylor
When it comes to knowing what’s going on in rural NZ, Kate Taylor has her finger firmly on the pulse
2019 was an outstanding year for Kate Taylor; she won the Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) Rural Champion Award, her book 50 Years Young: A History of the Young Farmer of the Year launched, and she won a seat on the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council.
These successes reflect the hard work Kate has put into her specialist rural media business, communiKate, which provides journalism, event management, social media, consultancy, and photography to a wide range of clients.
This year marks a 20-year milestone for communiKate, which Kate started when she had her daughter Sarah. Kate and her husband Thomas, who works for Ravensdown, live on a lifestyle block. Sarah is now studying music at Victoria University in Wellington and her brother Lachlan is at boarding school in Hastings.
Kate lives by a mantra of ‘people, passion, and positivity’. The number of voluntary activities she’s involved with in her rural community perfectly illustrates that. She’s a volunteer firefighter and also offers her support to the Takapau Health Centre and several local sports and community groups. "People are a huge part of who I am, and why I do what I do," she says.
Involvement with NZ Young Farmers
Kate grew up with her three sisters on a sheep farm in West Otago. "I was the daughter who grumped and groaned when I had to do something on the farm," she confesses.
However, while still at college, Kate joined the Young Farmers Club and continued to belong to regional clubs wherever she was based.
She met Thomas at Eskview Young Farmers in Hawke’s Bay 27 years ago. Over the years, Kate’s involvement with NZ Young Farmers extended to other roles, including media liaison officer and East Coast regional executive officer and chairman.
Having had such a long history with NZ Young Farmers, she seemed to be the perfect candidate to write the book to commemorate its Contest’s 50th anniversary. She was thrilled to get the job. "I wanted it so badly," she says.
Kate travelled the length and breadth of the country to interview former young farmers.
"Interestingly, because Otago/Southland is the most prolific region for Young Farmer of the Year winners, I travelled to Invercargill – the region I grew up in – more times in 2018 than I had in my life."
Her beaming smile as she holds the book up says it all. "Seeing my name on the cover makes me proud; it’s one of the highlights of my career. I like to think it’s more than just a historical record: it’s a collection of memories and stories."
Ballance Farm Environment Awards
For the past 10 years, Kate has been the Ballance Farm Environment Awards’ East Coast Regional co-ordinator. She has thoroughly enjoyed the post, which she recently passed into the capable hands of her successor, Kahlia Fryer.
"It’s been my baby and I’ve loved it," says Kate. "But it was time to give it to someone who will continue to improve and grow it just as I did." Kate enjoys the stories that came with the role.
"We’ve got some amazing farmers, from Tokomaru Bay to Takapau. The award is a vehicle for positive stories to be told; to have field days and invite people onto the farm. For me, the people I’ve met – entrants, finalists, judges, and sponsors – has been such a positive experience.
I’ve had the opportunity to form friendships with people at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Gisborne District Council, Beef + Lamb NZ, and the Ministry for Primary Industries, which I may not otherwise have done."
Volunteer fire fighter
When the Takapau Volunteer Fire Brigade needed people for call-outs during the day, Kate responded.
"I work from home and felt I was able to contribute. I thoroughly enjoyed the training, and I love helping out. We now have a full muster in the brigade with a good range of ages and occupations."
At times it’s heartbreaking. "As first responders, we’ve attended serious crashes such as one where a young man died, and members of his family were in the brigade. It’s something that hits a lot of brigades in small communities such as ours. But it’s awesome to be able to help people in an emergency and give back in such a positive way."
Becoming a district councillor
After finishing the book, Kate was looking for something a bit different to turn her attention to.
"The thing I enjoy most is the people factor and getting out there and doing something for my community. After years of reporting on council business, I recognised I had the basic knowledge of how it works at both the regional and district level.
"I campaigned on the theme that the previous council had done an excellent job and if people voted for me, it was more of the same. I wanted them to continue everything they said they’d do; finish the projects started under Project Thrive."
Kate says, "I describe the process of working as a district councillor as a different organisation of my mind compared to journalism, but I am enjoying it."
Having worked as a journalist first in radio and then in print, Kate has met some inspiring people along the way. She credits several people for being mentors. Veteran rural broadcaster Heugh Chappell is one.
"When I worked at Radio NZ back in the early ’90s, Heugh was a senior rural journalist. I learned some valuable lessons from him, though as a young whippersnapper I probably wouldn’t have admitted it at the time.
"Another cool head was my editor at the Herald-Tribune, James Morgan, who became a close family friend after Thomas managed their farm for 10 years. He had a calming, old-school-style news influence.
The sensationalism of today’s news is not what old-school style of journalism was about." Another person Kate admires and learned much from is former NZ Farmer editor, Jon Morgan. "I learned a lot from him and have huge respect for his work."
Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme
When Kate stepped up to do the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme in 2017, it was something she’d wanted to do for a long time. As part of the challenge, Kate did a research project on the challenges facing small rural non-farming business such as hers.
"The Kellogg Leadership Programme gave me a great opportunity to meet some of NZ’s top agribusiness leaders. My course cohort of 25 people, from different industries and geographical locations, remain an important part of my life, and we are in regular contact. It’s like having a ready-made group of people who understand where you are at."