Meat & Livestock News

Anna Nelson Breaks New Ground as Chair of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative

Anna Nelson has made history by becoming the first woman to chair a major New Zealand meat company, having been elected to lead Silver Fern Farms Co-operative. She succeeds Rob Hewett, who announced his retirement after a decade in the role and will step down at the cooperative’s annual meeting in May.

Nelson, a farmer from Aria in the King Country, was unanimously elected by the board. Hewett, a farmer-elected director from South Otago, will continue on the board for another year as an appointed director to aid with the transition in leadership and ensure governance continuity.

This leadership change coincides with the retirement of Simon Limmer, the chief executive of Silver Fern Farms Ltd, the operational arm jointly owned by the cooperative and Shanghai Maling. Limmer will be succeeded by Dan Boulton next month. Hewett highlighted these measures as crucial for maintaining continuity amidst changes at both the governance and senior executive levels.

Hewett, who joined the board in 2008 and became chair in 2013, led the company through a financially challenging period, culminating in the sale of half the processing and marketing business to Shanghai Maling for $261 million. He expressed his confidence in Nelson’s capabilities, a sentiment echoed by the board.

Nelson’s journey to this position has been remarkable. Originally from Cheviot, she trained as a vet and practised in Waikato for 10 years. Along with her husband Blair Munta, and in-laws Jon and Kaye, she runs a 1450ha breeding and finishing block in King County.

Her leadership development includes completing a Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme in 2016 and serving as a board-appointed farmer director on the SFF Co-op in 2021, before being elected to the board last year. Nelson is also an associate director at Beef+Lamb NZ and the catchment coordinator at King Country River Care.

Nelson expressed her eagerness to lead a unified board and work closely with shareholders and suppliers, especially given the current market challenges. She emphasised her understanding of how these conditions impact the entire supply chain, given her dual role as a farmer and a director.

Gabrielle Thompson, another farmer-elected director, is also retiring from the cooperative board but is seeking re-election. With two board positions open, nominations are currently being accepted from those interested in the election.