The Perfect Formula for Youth in Ag

This is a topic on the lips of many who have already done their hard yards in the agricultural industry and primary sectors. Many have a close eye on those who are up and coming - what's the perfect formula for the next generation of farmers?

Practical farm skills vs. book smarts and how are we going to best facilitate our young people to make sure they have equal portions of both?

As someone who has spent her share of time at a tertiary institute studying agriculture I have most definitely learned a heck of a lot about, not only farm processes, but also business operations.

I came to University off a sheep and beef cattle farm and the closest I had ever been to a dairy cow, was either driving past one or seeing one on Country Calendar. After a year or two at Uni, with the help of a best friend who was a born and raised dairy farmer, I understood about drying off, calving and dividends and to this day have done my one single milking.

The foundation knowledge that I came to University with was something it seems I took for granted when in my second year of University, a fellow student leaned across the table during a lecture and whispered "what's a Hogget?"

So it's here I assume you begin to understand the dilemma that these students face when they're expected take on several weeks of practical work over summer and write a report about it.

How many farmers do you know that are going to hire a student who doesn't know what a Hogget is? Chances are they're going to struggle identifying one and catching it out of a pen of other sheep.

Summer for nearly every farmer is the busiest time of year, and not really a time that many have a spare minute or extra patience to teach someone fresh off the University books how to set up and use a hand piece or any other equipment for that matter. Only for the farmer to then have the student return to University in February with their new found skills without any real benefit to them. Well aside from perhaps a month of quality work after two months of teaching them and the warm fuzzy feeling of up-skilling a future member of the agricultural industry.

This allows me to pose my next question. 'Should our institutes of "agricultural excellence" be hiring skilled stockmen to come and pass on their wisdom? Or should our cadet schools and training farms be hiring scientists and lecturers to offer a more rounded education?'

I was once asked if through my tertiary education I was taught how to ride a quad bike - no, my father taught me how to ride a quad bike alongside a scree of other farm skills he passed on to me.

In that respect I'm very fortunate.

What about those of us who're not as lucky to have grown up on a farm?

Where are they going to obtain those sorts of skills to allow them to fully understand a farming system?

If it were down to me I'd be taking a good hard look at the way agriculture is presented and taught, pushing for a uniform curriculum that ensures everyone in the industry is offered facilitated practical farming skills alongside the theoretical skills.

You get taught practical skills as a nurse and a vet, so why not as a rural professional?

Grace Pettit is the Content Marketer for Grass Roots Media NZ. She regularly blogs about Agricultural Industry news, Social Media updates and anything in line with her passions of Horses, Young Farmers and Agriculture.