Lincoln University students showcasing food and fibre career opportunities to high-schoolers around New Zealand have successfully wrapped up their Agri-ventures project. Agri-ventures, aimed at Year 11 and 12 students, has been running for five years as part of Lincoln’s Future Leader Scholarship programme, but was made available nationally for the first time this year when varsity students Fergus Lee, Danielle Bain and Campbell Barclay jumped on board.
The three spent two days highlighting as many career opportunities as possible in the NZ food and fibre sector.
“We signed up 17 passionate high-school students from around the country from as far north as Whangārei and as far south as Invercargill, many of whom are from urban areas,” Lee said.
“A lot of schools, especially urban ones, don’t teach agriculture as a subject, so unless the students have cousins on farms or watch Country Calendar, there aren’t many resources to find out what’s happening in the sector. So that was the core reason for the project.”
Bain said she had long wanted to run Agri-ventures.
“I attended the programme as a Year 12 student and absolutely loved it.
“It opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities available in the agriculture sector, which led me to study at Lincoln,” Bain said.
The event kicked off with Federated Farmers president, Meat the Need founder and Lincoln University alumnus Wayne Langford sharing the challenges and wins he had experienced on his journey and offering advice on mental wellbeing in a rural context.
The high-school students then visited Cleardale Station in the Rakaia Gorge, where they heard from high country farmer Ben Todhunter, also a Lincoln alumnus, about sheep and beef farming, including the importance of genetics when it comes to selecting for the best sheep.
Other locations on the agenda were Rakaia Island, to cover dairy careers, and PGG Wrightson to gain insight into the wool industry and the need for more woollen fabrics instead of synthetics, as well as discovering the range of career paths in the company.
The trip also included visits to Farmers Mutual Group (FMG) to explore the careers available there, PGG Wrightson Seeds Kimihia arable research farm for information on the seed industry and the FoodStuffs South Island warehouse to see the end products along the food supply chain.
Running the event nationwide meant participants needed accommodation, requiring a lot more funding than in other years.
A wide range of sponsors supported the initiative, and many also hosted the school students during their visit, including PGG Wrightson and PGG Wrightson Seeds, Rakaia Island Farm and FMG.
Other sponsors were Silverwood Trust, Ballance Agri-nutrients and Lincoln University, as well as Southland businesses Legendairies dairy farm and the Mokoreta Genetics sheep and beef farm.
“I have worked as a summer student for Legendairies and Mokoreta during my summer holidays and both are role models in their industries and are committed to attracting more young people into agriculture,” Lee said.
As part of the Future Leader Scholarship programme, all third-year students are tasked with initiating a project of their choice and working on the delivery with a team of first- and second-year students.
Ilse von Hirschberg, who runs the scholarship programme, said Agri-ventures was usually hosted in partnership with Lincoln University staff members.
“But this year, the team did it all by themselves, which was very impressive,” Von Hirschberg said.