Farmers, businesswoman honoured
Hastings farmer, businesswoman, educationist and community provider Jan Graham has won a Royal Agricultural Society Suffrage Centennial Award.
Mrs Graham, 62, is the only Hawke’s Bay women of the 25 winners announced today. There were 350 nominations from throughout New Zealand.
The awards – marking the work of rural woman, are a special Suffrage Year project by the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand and sponsored by the National Bank.
Born in Hastings and raised on a small mixed farm, Mrs Graham attended Ardmore Teachers’ College before holding primary teaching posts at both Dannevirke and Hastings in the early 1950s.
She married Mac Graham in 1953 and they developed Wai-iti Farms near Bridge Pa. The couple had ﬁve children and when Mr Graham died in 1977, Mrs Graham faced the prospect of running a part-developed pig fattening unit, large scale poultry operation and 2000 breeding ewes as well as taking care of her family commitments.
Rationalising her farming operation became Mrs Graham’s next challenge. The pig unit was at first leased then dropped, followed by a meat chicken unit. This left the sheep and lucrative egg and pullet-rearing units.
“I began doing the deliveries myself as maintenance bills escalated. I wanted to ensure safe deliveries and meet the customers at the same time.
“This meant driving a heavy truck and trailer all over the North Island, leaving at all hours of the night to ensure a daybreak delivery. The children had to be left alone a lot but were supportive, sensible and coped well.”
These demands did not prevent Mrs Graham from following in her husband’s footsteps when she was elected as a member of the Hawke’s Bay Education Board in 1978.
During her 12 years on the board, she represented it on the Havelock North High School Board and Hawke’s Bay Polytechnic Council.
A member of the education board’s Maori advisory committee, Mrs Graham took special interest in bicultural issues, reﬂecting her heritage.
She also represented Hawke’s Bay at conferences of the New Zealand Education Boards’ Association.
Mrs Graham became a Justice of the Peace in 1985 and has a distinguished record of other community service. A Red Cross member, she spent two years on the Hastings YMCA board and a further two as a budget counsellor for the Hastings budget counselling service.
She served a number of years on Cub and Scout committees and continues as secretary of the Hastings Day Centre for the Elderly and Disabled, having acted as helper, convener and committee member since 1975.
Mrs Graham established a home hosting service for tourists in 1985 while thousands of school children have toured Wai-iti Farms over the years. Children from welfare and other homes also stay during the school holidays.
From teacher to farm helper to farmer and company director, Mrs Graham’s occupational history continued to expand. Having taken the farm operation into viticulture and cropping, she entered forestry partnerships and became a director of Hawke’s Bay Poultry Co-op and Heretaunga Poulterers.
Her travel exploits are linked to her interest in geology. As president of the Hastings Geology Study Group, she has travelled New Zealand extensively and visited the New Hebrides, Tanzania, China, Borneo, Bolivia and Turkey.
The Graham family has always been strong supporters of the A and P show, exhibiting and competing for the past three generations. They supply animals to the Little People’s zoo.
Mrs Graham bought a partnership in neighbouring 100 acres. She said that was recognition that the future of Ngatarawa lies in viticulture, orcharding and cropping.
Mrs Graham likes gardening, conservation and trekking. She studies history and has china painting as a hobby and has nine grandchildren to ﬁnd time for.
Photo caption – Mrs Graham…interested in geology, painting, china.