The Fieldays Online, ‘This Working Life – Careers in the Agri-sector’ series, shines a light on six young people making a difference in the primary sector. The series offers a snapshot into their journeys into the industry and why they are passionate about what they do.
For Cheyenne Wilson and Sam Waugh, two dairy farmers featured, education, telling our stories better and shifting culture are key to securing a bright future for the Agri-industry. We caught up with them to hear more about their experiences.
Cheyenne Wilson’s dream is to see rangatahi move into and thrive in the primary industries. The 27-year-old Southlander worked in the dairy sector full time for seven years, progressing from a calf rearer to farm manager before making the decision to head to Lincoln University and study towards an Agriculture Commerce Degree.
She trained through Primary ITO while working in the industry but took the opportunity to broaden and strengthen her knowledge and skillset. Of Ngati Awa and Tuhoe descent, Cheyenne was also a finalist in the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year Award in 2018.
Her vision of the future is about solving two issues, getting young Maori passionate about the industry and into jobs while shifting the culture in and outside of the primary sector.
As someone who wasn’t sure about what she wanted to do after high school Cheyenne recognises the need to keep ones’ options open. “I don’t think the answer is saying ok you don’t have a job, just go and milk cows. That only adds to the stigma. If someone isn’t passionate about it then don’t put them in the dairy sector. It’s not a one size fits all job.
“There’s also a lack of relatable people, especially for young Maori, this is also a bigger issue for young people in general. I don’t want to limit this to only Maori, but this is definitely my passion.
“Someone could be an amazing recruiter or consultant but if they don’t understand Maori culture, they’re not going to understand why some people make the decisions they make or don’t make. Part of this is teaching young people about their history, tipuna, ancestors and how they farmed and looked after themselves. We need to understand where we came from in order to know where we’re going.”
Her vision is to start with weekend workshops run on marae with ‘paddock to plate’ learning, visiting grain farms or beef stations, meeting the farmers and witnessing the entire process from start to finish – building a hamburger by meeting those behind it’s ingredients per se.
“When we went into the lockdown it showed how little people understand where our food comes from and who makes it, the value chain of food production. There has been a huge generational change, in the past most people knew someone on a farm and had connections to it. There’s no longer these key relationships.”
From here Cheyenne wants to support rangatahi into jobs with a wraparound support network that doesn’t end at the farm gate but fosters individual development and support.
“It’s important to carry on the connections, not just throw a young person in a role and say see you later. Making sure they have the support network around them, whether it be having a connection with their local Young Farmers Club or a mentor, this is also extremely important for wellbeing.
“It’s been quite tough trying to look after myself and my four pillars, Te Whare Tapa Wha. For someone to prosper these need to be strong – their physical, mental social and spiritual wellbeing. This is as simple as someone learning to cook well for themselves or grow their own food. What I want to do is bigger than teaching people about farming, this is about connecting people to the land and the ‘why’ of what they do.”
To get her ideas off the ground Cheyenne says building professional relationships is key. “I’m in talks with NZ Beef and Lamb currently for future opportunities. I’m a member of NZIPIM which offers heaps of networking opportunities in the rural professional space.
“I’m also reaching out to governmental organisations like Te Puni Kokiri and MPI, to support the mentoring of youth. It’s as much about social welfare as it is about getting people into jobs. I’m also a DairyNZ scholar which has opened many doors.
“Coming through the dairy industry, especially as a female, was quite tough but also entertaining. Having people come onto the farm and walk straight past me looking for a male in charge, and then getting sent back to me, it shows the assumptions within the industry. I’m guilty of these stereotypes too, I might walk onto a farm and look for the first ‘Kiwi’ which is terrible because there really is so much diversity within the sector. We need to tell these stories more.
“There’s unlimited possibilities to achieve what I want to achieve.”
Was recently appointed Farm Manager at the Donald Pearson Farm just south of Auckland. The farm was set up to help advance education and understanding of agriculture for urban youth.
He completed a Bachelor of Commerce in Agriculture at Lincoln University, and joined the Lincoln University Young Farmers Club. After his studies Sam worked as a farm consultant before working in Europe and the UK in a range of farming businesses.
This helped him to better understand and appreciate what sets New Zealand agriculture apart from the rest of the world. Sam is excited to be a part of the work on the Donald Pearson farm and shared some of his insights about his current role.
“There’s real opportunity in the dairy sector. That was really highlighted through the Covid-19 crisis and the industry is screaming out for people, not just in the dairying but in the support industry as well. milk processes, fertiliser companies, marketing.
“The long-term intention is to showcase a bit more around the process from paddock to plate. Improving people’s connection to food is a big part of that. I’ve seen a lack of understanding of what farming is. Most of these kids that come out to the farm have never stepped foot on a farm or see a cow.
“The rural urban divide is more about a lack of understanding from both perspectives. The beauty of this farm is that it shows people what farming really looks like and where their food comes from despite what they might have seen in the media.
It helps explain how good New Zealand farmers really are at producing high quality food with a relatively low environmental footprint.
“We want people to move beyond just having interest in farming but to really engage with the industry in a real, tangible way. This is just the beginning, I’m proud to be a part of the project and to make a difference.”