04 Apr From childhood passion to a lifetime labour of love
Trudy Laan considers her work with farmers an “immense privilege”.
For more than two decades Trudy has worked as an agricultural consultant at Perrin Ag, specialising in dairying, corporate supervision, land use conversion and staff recruitment.
Today she is a director of the firm and principal consultant and plays a leading role in mentoring the next generation of agribusiness professionals.
It was a childhood spent on farm with her father that fuelled her love of cows and passion for farming. Born and raised on her family’s dairy farm in Pyes Pa near Tauranga, Trudy has always been interested in understanding the intricacies of agriculture.
Her fascination with cows and grass led her to Massey University where she graduated with an Honours degree in Agricultural Science. Since then, Trudy has pursued her own farming ventures and worked as a senior tutor in agriculture. She has also been a national examiner for the NZQA.
Trudy brings a holistic approach to what she does. It is centred around problem solving, critical thinking and empathy – qualities instilled in her as a child by her parents that have underpinned her work at Perrin Ag.
“Often our team works with farmers through major life changes, both good and bad. Whether we are assisting a client in buying and managing a new property or supporting a farmer in financial strife, problem solving and critical thinking are crucial.
“Being able to develop a genuine connection with farmers is also important. The agricultural industry is made up of honest, genuine, hardworking individuals, and we often work with them while they are under a lot of stress.
“When you work with a farmer to overcome financial hardship, it is very rewarding, humbling and an immense privilege to hold their hand through such personally challenging times. But it does require considerable compassion and empathy.”
When a farmer is in financial strife or tackling unprecedented challenges, Trudy says it is not about charging in and taking over.
“Rather, it’s about encouraging the farmer to carry on with the things they do well, and offering solutions for the things that haven’t gone so well.
“All it takes is a few bad seasons for a farmer to lose their confidence. We are here to support them in regaining autonomy over their farm business and reassure them they do know what they are doing, because they do.”
Perrin Ag has grown considerably during Trudy’s tenure. She has been instrumental in recruiting and mentoring new talent who are the right fit for the firm and its clients.
“There’s a lot of collaboration between all of us to deliver for our clients, so admittedly we are a bit fussy with our recruitment and selection.
“But finding the right people can be challenging. Sure, we’ve got all these bright young candidates who are first class honours students. But most importantly we need people who can develop a personable connection with our clients.
“People in farming are not usually out-there, bolshy people. A lot of our clients can be quieter and more reserved, so they respond well when they feel they can be easily heard and not ‘talked at’ by their consultant.”
Perrin Ag attracts some the best graduates from across the country. Trudy has observed a common theme over the years with the firm’s new hires.
“Some graduates come to us thinking we will employ them because they know all the answers.
“But the reality is, we employ those who can demonstrate they can learn the answers.”
This ‘freedom to learn’ is encouraged at Perrin Ag and has earned the firm a reputation as an employer of choice. While the current tight labour market makes it challenging to find good people, Trudy is proud of Perrin Ag’s well-curated team, which spans the full gamut of agricultural consulting.
Trudy has worked in partnership with some of her clients for over 20 years and has fostered valuable long-term working relationships. Now, she is excited to see her younger colleagues progressing and stepping up to take over these high-level partnerships.
“We do a lot of in-house training, and we pass on to our new people all the tricks of the trade we have acquired over the years.
“It is really satisfying when you’ve trained somebody who has come through as a graduate and is now supervising properties. Watching them develop as a consultant and loving what they do is a real pleasure.”