Saturday, December 9, 2023

Future farmers step up to have their say

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Young people working in food and fibre sector get organised.
Findal Proebst, secretary of Future Farmers NZ, says the sector needs a lot more connection and fewer silos.
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A hunting trip conversation between two friends has sparked an ambitious plan to bring a youthful perspective to the conversation on farming’s future.

Future Farmers NZ (FFNZ) are a group of young people who work in or around the food and fibre sector.

But they’re not just talking – they have laid out a manifesto built on the shared values of the diverse group.

Secretary Findal Proebst told the Farmers Weekly In Focus podcast that the manifesto centres on seven key themes: land-use design, forestry and carbon credits, knowledge and education, farm management, hauora: holistic wellness in agriculture, supply chains and innovation, and markets and finance.

“We’re quite a diverse group of youth from across the industry, from people in marketing to farmers on the ground to researchers to consultants,” Proebst said.

“And we’ve got all sorts of different political views in our group. So, we think that if we can agree on a pathway forward, others can too. And we’re not saying that our way is the right way, but it might be part of it.

“We’re all people in the industry doing the mahi already. That’s where our strength comes from, I’d say, because we have people who are experts already.

“We are reasonably young, but we have people who are experts in their fields and that provides the credibility and the strength of their arguments and the validity of their suggestions.”

One thing FFNZ is keen to address is the siloed thinking that tends to dominate not only agriculture, but all of society.

“We need to be much more connected across producer, manufacture, consumer and back again, with a lot fewer silos. When we do many things together, we can achieve a whole lot more,” Proebst said.

“Figuring out the way to include all the relevant stakeholders in the conversation is quite challenging, but is something that we’re taking big steps forward in.

“We’ve all always been a collaborative species. It’s just that, particularly when people get particularly good at a few things,it’s hard to step back and think about the whole. So we just decided, hey, let’s just step back and see what the collective wants, see what we think. And then try to bring those things together.”

Proebst said the manifesto has been well received by the industry, which is heartening.

“We honestly expected more pushback from farmers that we were talking to, because some of these targets we’re talking about are quite challenging. 

“But a lot of the farmers have said, hey, yeah, we know that we need to change, and we’re happy to do so. We have some tools, but we need more help, more tools, more collaboration.”

In Focus this week: The Future of NZ Farming

This week’s feature guest is Findal Proebst, secretary of Future Farmers NZ, a group of young people with a clear idea of what our food and fibre future looks like. Bryan also catches up with Federated Farmers vice-president Colin Hurst to unpack farm plans, freshwater reform and what Feds is doing to try and lessen the regulatory burden. Hugh Stringleman wraps up the reporting season, which has seen mixed results for listed agricultural companies.

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