Linda Flegg is bringing a wealth of horticulture knowledge and a passion for governance to the top seat at the New Zealand Avocado Growers Association table.
She was elected chair at the end of last year, following the resignation of Tony Ponder after three years in the role.
Linda says she’s excited to take on the challenge of being chair and help the industry perform at its best.
“I’ve been on the NZAGA board since 2016, which has made me realise that I'm very passionate about giving back to our industry by helping at a governance level,” says Linda.
“I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned at the board table to our family businesses – the benefits work both ways.”
Life on the orchard
Linda is a director of the family orchard, Morris Moore Farms, and their post-harvest company Kauripak – both in Katikati.
She’s in charge of compliance across the whole business, from growing to harvesting and packing.
“My parents bought a dairy farm at Kauri Point in the 50s, which has since been converted into a kiwifruit and avocado orchard with a small amount of grazing land. They are both still very active in the business today.”
After time away, Linda returned to the family business in her late 20s.
“The opportunity came up to come home and help manage the post-harvest side of the business, packing avocados for 160 local growers in our area.
“I've been working for the same business since.”
Improvements to the industry structure are on the horizon. In July, the board of NZ Avocado initiated an independent structure review of their organisation and their stakeholders.
“The NZ Avocado Growers Association has lost its visibility as an organisation over the last few years, which is something I’d like to improve.
“We’ve never undertaken a formal review before, so it’s a real milestone for the industry. The information in the final report will give us recommendations to decide on a pathway to ensure we’re relevant for the next 20 years.”
Linda says the report will help NZ Avocado, and the avocado industry as a whole, to be sustainable.
“Avocado growers are really passionate about long-term sustainability – not just for the environment, but social and economic sustainability, too.
“We want the industry to have a positive sustainability story by making evidence-based decisions for everything that we do. This will allow us to achieve our goals such as leaving a light footprint on the earth, supporting strong communities and providing safe workplaces.”
Linda says the NZAGA will be an active voice when decisions regarding the industry arise, including water availability and RMA issues.
Being in the industry herself, Linda is very aware of consumer expectations.
“Consumers from around the world want clean, safe and nutritious food, and see New Zealand as the provider of that.
“We're trying to emphasise these messages to all of our overseas markets.”
A win for women
This is the first time in its 40 year history that NZAGA has appointed a female chair.
Despite women representing 50 per cent of workers in the horticulture industry, a UMR study found women hold less than 20 per cent of leadership roles.
Citrus NZ executive manager and Women in Horticulture member Rebecca Fisher says it’s excellent that Linda has been appointed as chair.
“She’s not only well qualified, but she’s also a role model for women across the industry.
“It is encouraging to see there is a strong pipeline to empower and support women into leadership positions.”
Linda believes that the best person should be selected for any job regardless of gender, but is happy that there are better support networks available to help women realise their potential.
“I’d like to give a shout out to the initiative Women in Horticulture, who provide support for women in the industry.
“More women need to put their hands up for leadership roles, so I’ve recently joined the organisation to help make this happen.”