Jenna Smith: From Life-Altering Accident To CEO

Jenna Smith: From Life-Altering Accident To CEO

Jenna Smith is the Chief Executive of Pouarua Farms, based in the Hauraki Plains, sits on the boards of the BEL Group of Dairy Farms and Dairy Women's Network and is an observer on the Farmlands Board as well.

Smith discusses her remarkable journey from working hands-on in farming to becoming a leader in agricultural governance. Her career shift was prompted by a life-altering quad bike accident, leading her to discover her aptitude for "numbers and strategy and sort of big picture thinking," as she puts it. 

Smith's resilience is a recurring theme as she delves into how she turned the accident into an opportunity for growth, emphasising the significance of mentorship in her development. 

"Every chance that you take and every choice that you make, sort of you know, builds onto the next thing," she explains, highlighting her evolution within the industry. 

Sustainability is another focal point as Smith outlines the innovative changes implemented at Pouarua Farms, such as reducing dairy herd sizes and adopting non-GMO, palm-free policies. These efforts reflect a broader commitment to environmental stewardship in the agricultural sector. 

"Our vision really is to provide food for New Zealand and so whatever we do with our farming operations, it is with the lens of providing food for human consumption essentially." 

The conversation also covers her insights from her international Nuffield scholarship, with her research on peatland adaptations and their relation to climate change. She discusses the urgency of addressing climate volatility and warns against the paralysis of seeking perfect solutions over making progress. 

"We get so tied up in waiting for perfection in terms of some of the solutions to tackling climate change and/or climate volatility that we get in the way of making progress."

The conversation also touches on Smith's passion for endurance sports, drawing parallels between her ultramarathon experiences and her professional resilience. Despite a significant hip injury, she shares her philosophy of facing challenges head-on.

"I'm certainly more worried about finish lines rather than finish times." 

Jenna Smith's narrative is one of endurance, innovation, and leadership, demonstrating how personal trials can catalyse success and drive change in an industry deeply connected to the environment and future sustainability.

Listen to the full chat between Jenna Smith and Dominic George above.

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