Mid Canterbury farming leader surprised at New Year Honour

Rakaia’s Jessie Chan was surprised by her New Zealand Order of Merit recognition: “There are so many deserving people working in the (dairy and agriculture) sector.”

Rakaia’s Jessie Chan believes her commitment, passion and involvement in the dairy and primary sector could have contributed to her New Zealand Order of Merit recognition.

Chan received her New Year Honour for services to dairy and agriculture through her management and governance roles over 20 years.

She expressed surprise at being nominated, saying “there are so many deserving people working in the sector”.

When she receives the MNZM from the Governor-General next year, Chan will dedicate the moment and honour to her father, Victor Sorenson, who died in August 2021 and was a “very important part of my life”.

“He raised three daughters and a son by himself and encouraged us to be everything we wanted to be,” Chan said.

“He taught us leadership is patient, kind and forgiving, to be a good human being and see the good in others.”

“He believed in us and loved us unconditionally.”

Chan is motivated by working in the primary sector and said: “It’s great for building people up because there’s nothing greater than producing food.”

“I look to be identified in a sector that produces good food for society and encourage others to excel in the industry.”

Excel is something Chan has done for a long time.

Chan is the Ruralco board chairwoman, having served on the board since 2013. She’s also current director of Ngai Tahu Farming, Alpine Energy and Bioprotection Aotearoa.

She is also a member of New Zealand Asian Leaders, an organisation aimed at accelerating their contribution to the country, while in 2017 she was awarded the Fonterra’s Dairy Woman of the Year title, which led to her delivering more than 40 presentations nationwide to empower women to think outside the square when contributing to businesses and communities.

Chan, originally from Palmerston North, has been a Fonterra shareholders’ councillor, an associate director of Dairy New Zealand and is on the Land Use Futures Board.

She was also the first provincial president of the Wellington Young Farmers and, in 2009, she moved to Dorie with husband, Haydn Dorman, as sharemilkers.

Chan quickly took on administrative roles as vice-president and chairwoman of the dairy sector of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers and, nationally, was a member of federated farmers’ dairy sector.

Not surprisingly, Chan wants to champion dairy farmers and overcome the negative image they’re receiving.

“They’re not feeling loved by their fellow New Zealanders,’’ she said.

“They feel they’re villains for ruining the environment, being greedy and are cast as terrible employers.

“Farmers are family members too and are doing their best to look after the environment, people and animals and market their food to high end consumers throughout the world.”

She points out the primary sector has been the backbone that has kept the country ticking over for the past two years. Yet, there’s little acknowledgement of their contribution.

“I want to advocate for them and have their contribution acknowledged,” she said.

 

Fast facts

Who: Jessie Chan, from Rakaia.

What: Awarded New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)

Why: For services to dairy and agriculture through her management and governance roles over 20 years.

The award would honour her late father Victor Sorenson: “He raised three daughters and a son by himself and encouraged us to be everything we wanted to be.’’

Other major achievements: Fonterra’s Dairy Woman of the Year in 2017. Ruralco board chairwoman. Director of Ngai Tahu Farming, Alpine Energy and Bioprotection Aotearoa.

 

-Malcolm Hopwod

 

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