Ash-Leigh Campbell, 28, is the second youngest and only female on the management team at Ngai Tahu Farming. She is also the first female chair of NZ Young Farmers.
Campbell has been nominated for both roles in the rural category of the 2019 Women of Influence awards.
She says growing up on the outskirts Lincoln, Canterbury, on a lifestyle property with pet lambs and horses probably influenced her move into dairy farming.
Her first job in the industry was milking cows after school three days a week in Springston. Her then-boss Daryl Petheram was surprised a 16-year-old girl was interested in the tough and dirty job.
That was in the mid 2000s, when women in the agricultural field was still an unusual thing. Petheram had never employed a female on his farm before. He and his wife, Sue, remain big supporters of Campbell, and have followed her journey through the agricultural sector with pride.
Once Campbell had graduated high school, she spent a year at university before travelling. She returned to agriculture, this time as a dairy assistant for a couple of years while she saved money to fund more travel. During that time, Campbell studied at the Primary Industry Training Organisation, which gave her a chance to learn while she earned.
Eventually, Campbell got involved with the Young Farmers group in Dunsandel, and through that connection gained her first farm manager role at the age of 22 on a dry stock property near Sheffield.
After a couple of years, she was at a crossroads, not wanting to just continue milking cows for the rest of her life. A neighbouring farmer advised her that she needed to get back to university, use her brain and progress herself through the agricultural industry.
In 2015, Campbell returned to Lincoln University to get a Diploma in Agriculture and another in Farm Management. She won a scholarship.
"The scholarship was Whenua Kura, which is a Maori-based opportunity around getting young Maori into the primary industries," Campbell said.
"One of the most important benefits of this scholarship was reconnecting with iwi, doing research and history on my whakapapa and heritage and all that."