Mother-daughter relationships are often fraught with challenge, particularly when the personal combines with the professional. But Erika Chesworth and her daughter Emma Elliott have struck what they say is a happy balance – theirs is a partnership based on a mutual respect, a passion for their industry and a commitment to “keeping it in the adult”.
Emma worked part time on the farm to help put herself through uni as an external student and finished her degree in record time. But she was tossing and turning and saying she really didn’t know what to do with herself, but that she really just wanted to work here with us on the farm. So it was (my husband) Steve who came up with the idea of her helping out here, given the way the dairy industry was in chaos due to the whole $1 per litre (milk) thing.
We said “Honey, you can come home but you’re going to have to make your own income.” And that’s how we came to have the Little Big Dairy today. It’s been a big job.
She’s been a part of everything to do with the business from the very start. She’s been out in front leading the charge, so from that conversation nearly three years ago she headed over to Western Australia to visit a family that does processing. She had a week’s work experience there, and from there she’s been the face of the business and I’ve been in the background.
I think it’s such a privilege to be able to work with your daughter and Emma’s just beautiful so it’s very easy.
I’ve always worked on the farm for Mum and Dad, and since I finished uni, I’ve been working to help develop the business, so I’ve been working alongside Mum for my whole life, really. And it’s a privilege.
She’s a really good mum. I’m the only girl and when I was growing up, I always wanted her to be my only friend. And she was my friend, yes, but she was always a mum first. She was consistent in being a mother first and foremost and now I’m really appreciative of that, because now I think we are actually are friends.
Having had a respectful relationship where I was the child and she was the mother, has helped to shape me into the sort of woman she wanted me to be, so now we can be friends too, I suppose. That’s a funny thing to say out loud.
She’s been a really good role model. Mum and Dad are both very passionate people. Mum really throws herself fully into everything. Take, for instance, the breastfeeding thing (Erika was for many years the driving force behind a local breastfeeding awareness and support group). With Mum, it’s all or nothing. She’s really gutsy, but she’s also really compassionate. She’s very caring, but when she believes in something she’s 100 per cent behind it. She can’t be half in. She has the courage of her convictions.
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