I arrived back from Perth, Western Australia in April 2012 with a new career in farming ahead of me. The last time that I had been involved in ‘hands-on’ farming was roughly 6 years prior, when I spent the summer following my last year of university helping with a few odd jobs on my parent’s farm. Although I had come back to my ‘home town’, I no longer knew many people in the local area.
My involvement in Young Farmers began with a long-standing desire to compete in the YF of the Year competition. I had grown up with a keen interest in the competition, and enjoyed watching the grand final each year to see what activities had to be negotiated, what area the farmers came from, and of course, who won! After I got home and somewhat had my feet on the ground, I set about joining my local YF club which unbeknownst to me was in my local town of Helensville. Unfortunately, the club didn’t survive due to people moving out of the area, but it was my first foray into the YF culture. I entered the competition as planned, with a district final in Kaiwaka. This gave me a chance to not only compete in the competition, but also to meet some of the fantastic people who were involved in YF in the Northern Region.
Having made it past the district final to the regional final, I was runner-up to Ian Douglas, who went onto represent the Northern Region in the Grand Final which was held in Auckland. This gave me the opportunity to really understand the benefits of being a YF member and to become more actively involved in the organization. I was asked to fill-in as treasurer of the GF due to a conflict of interest. There were many late nights and a lot of work, but also some great learnings that I took out of my first experience on a YF committee. This included gaining a better understanding of the different roles played in a committee situation and the chance to see a different style of leader in action, one who is required to motivate and inspire change in a non-commercial situation. Everyone was there on their own time and was extremely passionate about working as a team to put together the best grand final possible. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with people I might not ever have worked with otherwise. Further opportunities arose when I was given the chance to Chair the Northern Region (and meetings at NATCOM further exposed me to the workings of the YF organization). All these experiences provided me with valuable learning opportunities and exposure to a fantastic and unique organization in the world of agriculture.
In 2013/14, I once again entered the competition, and was very fortunate to progress through the district and regional competitions to the Grand Final. As a grand finalist, you are introduced to many people, with opportunities to meet and engage with a range of NZ agricultural leaders. You have the chance to develop networks with the people that currently make the decisions affecting all of us involved in the industry. The exposure I gained through YF has also seen me join the Northern North Island Farmer Council for Beef and Lamb, a chance to ‘give something back’ to the industry.
Upon winning the competition, a number of these benefits were magnified. One of my prizes included a trip to the USA where I attended the North American Meat Industry Conference. Through my attendance I gained a better understanding of where our product goes and the potential opportunities for our product within this market. I was also given entry to the Kellogg’s Rural Leadership Programme. This was an opportunity to further my education and meet current and future leaders in the NZ primary sector (including fellow Young Farmers!). Completing the Kellogg’s programme then lead to my application for a Nuffield Scholarship which has seen me visit agricultural and consumer focused businesses all over the world.
As I have travelled I have truly realized what a unique and special organization Young Farmers is. It provides the opportunity to meet other young people in your area and to form long-lasting friendships. YF gives you a vast network of support that can be of great assistance in many situations. For example, when you simply need help with a practical task or even when you encounter a problem you haven’t seen before. They are a group to help you take time out from the daily grind through social events, a chance to wind down with a group of friends who understand that rural life can be a bit lonely. It helps to bring life to rural communities (something that other countries are really struggling with), while also providing an opportunity to do great things for those communities – contributing to community spirit. YF also gives you the opportunity to get involved at a higher level if you so choose. You develop skills around the committee table which will certainly assist should you decide to become involved in additional or alternative community organizations at any stage. You are also able to run for the board and develop skills in governance should you be interested in moving into an industry leadership role in the future.
Young Farmers has been a life-changing experience for me, and I would thoroughly recommend that anyone joins their local club and becomes actively involved in the activities on offer. The YF of the Year competition is also a great way to challenge yourself and step outside of your com