There’s never been a more important time for young Kiwi farmers to make their voice heard through Federated Farmers, say two of the organisation’s emerging leaders.
Luke Kane, Federated Farmers Otago president, says the next few years will be crucial for New Zealand’s agriculture sector, with decisions being made about big issues like emissions and freshwater quality.
“The rules and regulations coming through now are going to affect us young farmers for our entire farming careers,” says the 35-year-old.
“Of course, it’ll affect older farmers too, but nowhere near as much as the younger ones, who’ll spend their lives farming under these new rules.
“I think it’s important to be involved in Federated Farmers and add your 10 cents. It’s bloody hard to complain about anything if you haven’t taken the chance to have your say.”
Also keen to see more young people at the leadership table is Heather Gee-Taylor, Federated Farmers’ 27-year-old Manawatu/Rangitikei meat and wool chair.
“I was actually surprised when I joined the executive to see how many young people are already in Feds leadership roles around the country, but we need more – we need to have a stronger voice from young farmers.”
In saying that, Gee-Taylor knows all too well that many young farmers struggle to take on responsibilities off the farm.
“Young people are really busy and we’re at that age where we’re slogging our guts out on the farm. People who would be contenders to sit around the Feds governance table and make change often don’t have time. They’re trying to crush it with their business.”
For those young farmers, even joining up as a Federated Farmer member will offer significant benefits and give them the right to vote for who represents them, she says.
“As a member who’s paying your subs, you’re receiving really clear, useful information as it comes out from Feds and knowing that you’re supporting their various campaigns. There are lots of benefits of being a member, like the contracts and advice you can access.”
She says being part of Federated Farmers helps keep you informed about the latest regulatory changes coming down the line.
“Young people need to be aware of what’s coming up and aware of the work Feds is doing on our behalf. The information they put out is really important and they’re good at communicating clearly, in language farmers can understand.”
Gee-Taylor is quick to acknowledge the cost of membership can be a barrier, and she encourages people to take advantage of the free membership available to those who belong to NZ Young Farmers.
“That’s great bang for your buck if you’re not wanting to be involved further in terms of being able to access Feds’ contracts and so on. Those base level memberships are really important.”
Kane sees the Federated Farmers membership as a smart spend.
“Yes, it’s a considerable amount of money every year for a membership, but what’s the risk if you don’t pay that money? Are you willing to let everything be decided for you?
“It’s cheap insurance. This is a very small percentage compared to my annual insurance bill and it’s certainly one I wouldn’t skimp on.”
For both Kane and Gee-Taylor, stepping into a Federated Farmer leadership role has provided a valuable opportunity to grow their skillset.
“Being on the executive, as well as on the Manawatu District Council and a local school board, has definitely helped me develop my governance skills. I got a lot out of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator programme too,” Gee-Taylor says.
Fourth-generation farmer Kane says he was never great at public speaking but he’s improving.
“Being on the exec has pushed me to speak up and share my views in a group setting when I may or may not know those people.”
Networking opportunities have also been incredibly useful, he says.
“You tend to meet a lot of like-minded people. There are some pretty switched on people involved in Feds, so I’m not going to lie, I’ve stolen some good ideas from other members, and it’s paid dividends. It’s a great place to pick up new ideas.”
Kane says he wants to see more farmers across the board – not just young farmers – coming onboard with Federated Farmers in the next year.
“There are so many farmers getting the benefits of Federated Farmers’ work, but they’re not paying for it. It’s like that guy who comes to the BBQ empty-handed but then tucks into everyone else’s steaks.
“The benefits of Federated Farmers are for everyone, but not everyone’s pulling their weight.”
Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.