Thursday, December 7, 2023

From Koru to cows

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Nikayla Knight’s career path has gone from the glamour of serving lattes in an airport lounge to milking cows on a Mid Canterbury dairy farm and she is stoked.
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Knight was pursuing a hospitality career in the Koru Lounge at Dunedin airport when covid-19 struck. She effectively lost her job overnight.

“Given tourism shut down because of covid I was out of work. I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

“I had three months out of work, no money coming in, no hope of returning to my job so I was looking for anything,” Knight said.

At the same time Mid Canterbury sharemilkers Richard and Tamie Macdonald had a job open as their 800-cow unit headed into calving.

Despite having no farming experience Knight thought it could be an option.

“I had read good things about farmers and how big things were happening in the New Zealand farming industry.

“There seemed to be a lot of career options in the dairy industry so I thought I would give it a shot.”

Three weeks on Knight is still smiling.

“It’s great, I’m learning lots. I have all this good gear to wear at work and I’m working with great people and enjoying the cows and farm work.”

The Macdonalds are happy too.

“We were looking for a fourth employee and in the recruitment process through FarmSource this CV came across as quite interesting.

“It was crucial to us that we find a person who could fit with the team and while Nikayla had no farming experience she certainly showed enthusiasm and initiative and ticked all the boxes otherwise.

“I enjoy training and seeing people advance in their career and we saw this as a real opportunity for us and for Nikayla alongside the experienced team we already have,” Macdonald said.

“It really does bring great satisfaction when you see team members grow and progress in their careers. It’s great for us and them and the industry.”

Knight was given a Federated Farmers Farm-Starter kit.

The kit is an initiative by Federated Farmers and the Ministry of Social Development to help new workers get started in agriculture.

“It’s fantastic,” Macdonald said. 

The new workers get all-weather clothing supplied by Kaiwaka and the employer gets a Federated Farmers employment contract.

Feds national board member Chris Lewis said in desperation to get farm workers Feds jumped on board with the Government’s drive to attract more Kiwis into agricultural, particularly those made redundant.

Farmers want more Kiwi workers and domestic unemployment is now high because of covid-19. 

“The agriculture industry has made no secret of its reliance on migrant labour to keep farms working. 

“To date this system has suited the migrants, the farmers, the economy and the Government with a wave of reliable workers coming to fill roles that many New Zealanders don’t want to do. 

“Covid-19 has turned all this on its head and visions of Queenstown tourism guides moving to Balclutha or Auckland baristas upping sticks and settling in the heart of Waikato had more than a few farmers scratching their heads,” Lewis said.

“But it’s happening and how excited we are.

“Feds has no funding. It’s all been done through generosity and to have Kaiwaka come on board and donate a good chunk of the clothing to the cause has been just fantastic.”

Initially, 300 kits, valued at $1300, are free to Feds members and so far 40 have been taken by arable, sheep, beef and dairy farmers.


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