Kiwi women encouraged to consider a career in horticulture providing essential nutrition to whānau

8th March 2023

Kiwi women encouraged to consider a career in horticulture providing essential nutrition to whānau

The award-winning team of women at United Fresh New Zealand want to use this year’s International Women’s Day to encourage others to join the thriving fresh produce industry.

Acknowledging the vital role that women play in New Zealand’s $6 billion horticulture industry, United Fresh takes pride in supporting the entire value chain which supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to whānau throughout Aotearoa.

United Fresh General Manager, Paula Dudley says that their female-led team echoes an international movement towards gender equality.

“The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include the empowerment of women in the workplace. Studies in Aotearoa have found that women represent 50 percent of workers in the industry, yet they hold less than 20 percent of leadership positions. That’s a statistic United Fresh is keen to change,” she says.

The unique set of skills that the United Fresh team possess saw them awarded the Primary Industries NZ Summit Team Award for delivering 300,000 boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables to whānau during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“The award was testament to the long-term relationship building abilities that women like us bring to the fresh produce industry. Women often have a different perspective of the community and of the whānau unit, and this drives us to develop alternative solutions to deliver essential nutrition to New Zealanders,” says Dudley.

A significant part of United Fresh’s work is promoting the 5+ A Day message to Kiwi consumers as well as managing the Fruit In Schools initiative which will this year deliver over 27 million servings of fruit to 110,000 tamariki around the country.

5+ A Day Charitable Trust Project Manager, Carmel Ireland, says the importance of women to the fresh produce industry can’t be underestimated.

“Just from a retail perspective, women are still the primary decision-makers when it comes to the nutrition choices that whānau make,” she says.

“It’s vital that women within the industry take leading roles to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of those consumers to put fresh, affordable and healthy food on the table each day,” says Carmel.

5+ A Day Media Manager, Katie Fegan, says the ways in which women contribute to horticulture has changed over the years.

“While primary industries like horticulture may have seemed a traditionally male-oriented environment, unlike corporate workplaces, women have always played an important part in the growing and harvesting of fruit and vegetables,” she says.

“As the industry grows, so too do roles for females, with limitless opportunities now available to young women entering the industry,” says Fegan.

Dudley believes the example set by her team of wahine at United Fresh should be replicated throughout the horticulture industry.

“While women are still missing from the top tables of many of our horticultural organisations, changes are coming. As our industry grapples with environmental, financial and social change, women offer a fresh perspective in an industry that is vital for the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders, “ says Dudley.