This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.
The buzz from tending to hives and harvesting honey eventually wore off for Georgia Young, who decided it was time to get on with her studies. Throwing in her beekeeping job, she headed to Massey University in Palmerston North.
But she struggled to find a new buzz at university and decided to drop out after her first year to pursue something else. She landed a dairy farming job in South Taranaki, despite swearing from a young age that she would never set foot on a dairy farm.
“I grew up on a family sheep and beef farm and all I really knew was dairy farmers get up early and seem never to stop,” Young says.
“But I’ve got a newfound appreciation, there’s so much dairy farmers are doing behind the scenes, for their animals and the environment. It’s so much more technical than it seems.”
The family farm was on the Paraparas just north of Whanganui and her uncle and godfather, Michael Lumsden, was a beekeeper and kept some hives on their farm. Young spent the summer after Year 13 in Hamilton helping Lumsden with his bees and he suggested she study apiculture. So she did a course through UCOL in 2018 and was approached by a beekeeper close to home with an assistant beekeeper job.
“It was just the two of us to start with, which was a lot of work,” Young says.
“But I also lost my grandmother unexpectedly that year, so the bees were a good escape and a way to stay close to home to spend more time with my grandfather.”
After two seasons the work had expanded so much her boss took on more team members and Young stepped into a training role, teaching the newbies how to tend to the bees.
But she had had university on her mind for a while and after four years as a beekeeper, she finally decided to make the move to Palmerston North. She enrolled in agribusiness with a major in rural management and a minor in rural valuation.
“I was thinking I’d end up a farm adviser or a rural banker maybe, but I didn’t really know what exactly, so I started heading in that direction.
“I couldn’t get chemistry, though, which meant I needed to reconsider my major and minor, and I found I didn’t have the same motivation anymore, so I began questioning if it was worth it if I wasn’t putting my all into it.”
It was a bold move but she is pleased she made the decision to step away. It was while she was job hunting that a girl she had met through university approached her about a role on a dairy farm.
“It was for her parents, they wanted someone with dairy experience but gave me an interview anyway because I at least had stock sense coming from a farm background.”
The farm owners were Kate and Gerald Lynch, who her dad, Trevor Young, knew through his time in Young Farmers. They offered her the role and she moved from Palmerston North to Maxwell, on the other side of Whanganui, ready to start June 1 last year.
It is a spring calving farm and they milk 580 Friesian cows through a 50 bail rotary. Calving was due to start on July 25 but they had some calve on July 9 and it was a whirlwind from there.
“I knew calving was going to be tough and it well and truly tested me. It really was an eye-opener to drop myself in.
“I’m very lucky to be working for Gerald though, he has a wealth of knowledge and if I ask the right questions he gives me thorough explanations about why he does things.”
Part way through the season she got involved with pasture management and has found it fascinating learning about things like the impact body condition can have on reproductive performance.
There are four in the team and from working alongside others who are also fresh into the industry, she appreciates how having simple stockmanship skills can make a huge difference. She has been studying Level 4 Agriculture through Land Based Training, which has really helped develop her understanding.
Like her dad before her, she is involved in New Zealand Young Farmers and enjoys the networks and opportunities it helps her build.
She has been off work recently recovering from surgery on an old injury but is looking forward to getting back outside. Her advice to others new to the industry is to immerse themselves in everything that is going on but remember to take a break.
“I’ve been lucky we run a five on, two off roster. It makes a huge difference knowing the recovery days are close because I can see how easy it is to wear yourself out too early through those busy times.
“It’s true when they say you can’t pour from an empty cup!”
She still has a few hives floating around just as a hobby, but does not think she would go beekeeping commercially again and has certainly found her buzz on the dairy farm.