Marlborough cheese maker announced as Supreme winner in RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Award 2011

Wednesday 25 May 2011, 3:02PM

By Rural Women New Zealand



A Marlborough tourism business that has morphed into a complete rural experience has taken top honours in the Rural Women New Zealand Enterprising Rural Women Award 2011.

Cheese maker extraordinaire, Lisa Harper of Sherrington Grange, was announced as the Supreme winner at the awards ceremony in Auckland last weekend, during the opening of the Rural Women New Zealand National Conference.

Lisa had already been named as the South Island winner, and pipped North Island winners, Bernadine Guilleux and Maria-Fe Rohrlach of Nestling Limited, to take away the Supreme award.

Speaking at the Awards ceremony, Access chairman John Ayling said he and fellow judges Tina Symmans of Telecom, and RWNZ National President Liz Evans, had been “treated to a wonderful array of diversity, innovation and sheer determination” by this year’s 22 entrants. He said Lisa Harper of Sherrington Grange exemplified all these attributes.

The RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Award celebrates rural women in business and acknowledge the extra challenges they face in running a successful enterprise from a rural location.

From the farm in Mahau Sound, Lisa Harper has faced many challenges of her own to achieve the outstanding success recognised by this award.

Her entrepreneurial journey began several years ago, when she began looking for a way to help the flagging fortunes of her family’s sheep farm. Lisa returned home after a career as a scientist for what was intended to be a three month stint. Seven years later she is still there, pushing the boundaries in a business that just keeps growing and diversifying to take advantage of all that the rural location has to offer.

Pragmatism runs in the family. It was Lisa’s grandmother who pointed out that “you can’t eat the view”.

Lisa has tapped into a niche tourism market, offering guests a glimpse of an old fashioned way of life that she took for granted as a child, where tasks such as cheese making were part of the regular household routine.

Now Lisa makes a full range of cheeses for the restaurant trade, runs cheese making classes and organises on-farm experiences for guests who come to stay at Sherrington Grange.

The multi-faceted nature of the business has helped even-out seasonal cash flow, and Lisa continues to explore ways of taking Sherrington Grange in new directions.

“Lisa takes time out to think ahead, rather than become hostage to the here and now,” says John Ayling.

She also spreads her infectious enthusiasm around the Marlborough business community, helping to promote the province’s reputation for fine food and wine.

“She is very energetic and incredibly well connected into local networks,” says Ayling.

Rural Women New Zealand congratulates Lisa Harper as a most deserving Supreme winner of the RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Award 2011.