New rural women’s group a hit

A new rural women’s group that meets for dinner dates has proven to be a massive hit among south Marlborough locals.

The AFK Rural Ladies Dinner Date group was kick started in 2023 to bring together local farming and rural women from Awatere, Flaxbourne and Kekerengu near the top of the South Island.

Co-founder Nadine Hickman, who helps run Taimate Angus near Blenheim with her husband Paul, says the response to the group has been incredible.

“We’ve been blown away by the enthusiastic response, it’s really highlighted how much this was needed,” Nadine says.

“It’s about connecting farming and rural women in our local community and making it easy for them to get together and have a fun evening out that’s been organised for them.”

The dinner dates are held quarterly at different local venues, with two so far having been held – one in October 2023 and one in February this year. The next one will be held in May.

“We had 70 women at the first one and 60 at the second, which was amazing. We also have a mystery guest speaker at each dinner, which adds a bit of intrigue and excitement and gets people talking before and after the event.”

The guest speakers at the first dinner were two escapees from Gloriavale and the guest speaker at the second dinner was Kate Ivey, of Kate Ivey Fitness.

“The guest speakers were really informative and inspirational and brought everybody together.” 

Regaining lost social connections

Nadine, who has four children, says once kids leave primary school, social networks, events and get-togethers created through being connected to the school are lost.

“My youngest is off to college next year so I’ll be losing that connection… so when the idea of the dinner group was put to me, I was really keen to be involved.”

Nadine says these days women juggle a lot more, often raising kids and working outside of the home.

“Many women don’t often have the time nowadays to join committees or volunteer groups so that avenue of social connection is not so common.”

She says she hopes the dinner dates fill that gap and make it easier for women to get together.

“Connecting with others is essential for good mental health and in rural areas it can be a bit harder to connect due to remoteness and a lack of local bars or cafes that you can just pop down to.”

She says a number of women travelled from Blenheim, where they have retired to, to join the dinner dates. 

“They used to live in the area but retired to Blenheim and wanted to stay connected with their old community, so that’s been really special for them to stay in touch.” 

Nadine, who runs a business called Peptalk Media, used to be a competitive gymnast and says working with mental skills coaches highlighted the importance of looking after your mental and physical wellbeing.

“Wellbeing and thriving and feeling your best is something I’m passionate about and it feels so wonderful to see how much joy the dinner dates have brought to people,” she says.

Evening all taken care of

Rachael van Asch, who owns the Little Oasis Vineyard in Awatere with her husband, Geoff, attended both dinners and had a blast.

“It was so wonderful catching up with people I knew, re-connecting with people I hadn’t seen for a while and meeting new people as well,” Rachael says.

She says it was also nice to have everything taken care of for the evening.

“I didn’t have to do any organising or cooking or anything. It was all taken care of, and it was fabulous. I’m so grateful for the group and I’m really looking forward to the next dinner date.”

If you’d like support setting up a similar event in your area, please email Farmstrong at

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