In a world that is increasingly digital, it’s rare that a new magazine launches. We spent five minutes catching up with Shepherdess Magazine founder and editor Kristy McGregor, about where the idea came from and the journey to date.

What is Shepherdess?

Shepherdess is a new quarterly magazine for women in rural New Zealand. It is about connecting, empowering and inspiring women across New Zealand, by offering a place to tell the people of our rural community’s stories. It is a place to share stories of resourcefulness, entrepreneurship and courage.

Where did the idea come from?

I’ve always been passionate about creating vibrant and thriving rural communities. When I lived in far western Queensland, before moving to New Zealand, I started an event called the Channel Country Ladies Day with a group of women. It’s still going strong, now eight years on, and brings together women from the most remote corners of three states together for a weekend of laughs, connection, comradery and burlesque. It’s a lot of fun, but it also has – as we discovered – an important place in the lives of many women for its impact on their social and emotional wellbeing, in what is a very geographically isolated region.

When I moved to New Zealand, I realised that there is this very strong agricultural industry, but a lot of the conversation was about cows and grass. Communities are closer together, but that doesn’t always mean they are better connected. There’s also so many wonderful things going on already in rural communities, but they aren’t widely talked about; they’re almost hidden. You have to know where to find them.

At the same time I met Claire Dunne, the founder and editor of Australian magazine Graziher. Claire has really paved the way in Australia for telling the stories of women in the bush. After a little while of toying with the idea, she messaged me just after the Christmas before last saying ‘how about it?’. At that point I had a newborn baby, was studying for my Masters, was about to return to work, and life was full. I don’t believe there’s such thing as waiting for the right time though – you’ve just got to seize the moment as it comes and with that, we thrust into creating a magazine. Claire’s been on the end of the phone ever since and I am very grateful to her for her support and wisdom throughout.

When print is going out of fashion, why a magazine?

There’s something special about picking up a magazine and holding it in your hands! It’s so much more of an experience than the inundation of material we’re privy to through digital channels. Receiving a magazine that you treasure in your letterbox is a real treat, and it’s a fond memory I have from growing up. It feels like a lot has fallen into place – now there’s a reason why I’ve kept so many magazines on my bookshelf for all these years! They’ve also become good reference points over the last few months.

Where is the magazine available?

The first edition launched in mid-March. It’s available online via subscription and at selected Farmlands stores nationally. In the future you will find it at a couple of Manawatū favourites, including Marton’s Moomaa Café & Design Store, and Tonic & Cloth in George Street, Palmerston North.

Tell us about the first edition!

We’ve trekked from Northland to the Mackenzie Country, and there’s so many beautiful stories, it’s hard to know where to start! We’ve got a story on a wahine, mother and farmer from Northland, Chevon Horsford, who is doing beautiful work supporting her whanau and their aspirations for their land. We talk with two families who have diversified their farming businesses by adding glamping accommodation. We met a pioneer in the seafood industry, a crayfisherwoman from Tora on the Wairarapa Coast, and catch up with two sisters who are taking on the family farm. Alongside that we’ve curated lovely things for your home made in rural New Zealand, women sharing their memories and moments, a profile on a rural artist, and social photos from recent rural community events around the country.

The feeling of isolation and disconnection is something that’s affecting a lot of people right now – what do you think city women could learn from our rural sisters at a time like this?

I’m a strong believer that isolation isn’t a physical or geographic thing but social, and I guess this time is really proof of that. Many rural women are used to isolation – they’re used to a long time between trips to town for shopping, and to being surrounded by immediate family or the farm team without regular contact with others or amenities we take for granted in town. Lucky for all of us at the moment – we’ve got the good old fashioned telephone (or mobile) and most of us have decent internet – that’s a doorway to staying connected. I think it does though force us all to reflect on our own resilience… and we pull on strengths we didn’t know we even have! Finding the best out of an unexpected situation, and knowing this might not be the way we planned things, but we just have to make the most of it.

What would our non-rural readers get out of the magazine?

It’s a snapshot into rural life, and I think the principles are broadly relatable to all women. New Zealand is a small place so when I think of rural women I really think of women outside of our biggest city! We’ve got a lot of Manawatū stories in the First Edition – the story of Jodie Woods and her Tonic & Cloth brand; the Gilbertson’s who have diversified into Glamping; and Kylie Grimmer from Mustard Folk who has really changed the Palmerston North events scene. I think that the themes around entrepreneurship, leadership, connecting to your whanau and whenua… they are applicable no matter whether you live in town or out of town.

Is the magazine being delivered during lockdown?

We’re still able to post our first edition, thankfully, as it was printed before the lockdown. And we’re busily preparing the second edition from homes and farms across the region!

A little more about Kristy…

Originally from Sydney, Kristy and her partner Michael live on his family’s dairy and beef farm between Levin and Otaki.

When she’s not busy founding and publishing a brand new magazine for rural women, Kristy is the programme manager for Rural Innovation Lab – a platform of collaborative partners supporting farmers to solve some of the primary sector’s biggest problems, from right here in Manawatū. Kristy helps rural communities get their projects and events off the ground and access funding through Muster, a social enterprise dedicated to creating vibrant rural communities. She’s also a mum to her 18-month-old son, Hartley.

Find out more about Shepherdess Magazine

Visit shepherdess.co.nz

The Shepherdess Magazine is issued quarterly and subscriptions are available on the website.