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Growing the next generation of farming leaders

Forty motivated young farmers gathered for two days at three different South Island locations over August as part of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Generation Next programme.
Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The professional development programme, aimed at young and aspiring sheep and beef farmers, is held over six months every year, with participants gathering for either one or two days every three months for the workshops or modules.

Topics covered include understanding the farm business, decision-making skills, technology and genetics, managing mental health and well-being and insight into the industry’s overall goals and objectives.

The annual programme starts in June with a one-day focus-on-finances workshop while the two-day August workshop was centred on understanding technology and genetics within the industry.

The final workshop in November will give the farmers an understanding of the processing industry and the marketing of their products.

Over two days in August, 20 participants from Canterbury heard from subject matter experts such as B+LNZ’s beef genetics specialist Anna Boyd and sheep geneticist Annie O’Connell as well as tech-savvy farmers. They also went on a field trip and visited the Lincoln University Johnson Memorial lab looking at the sheep scanning facility and the use of radio frequency sheep identification systems.

The attendees included farm managers, stock managers and shepherds, several of whom had chosen to go farming from careers in other industries. Amongst the careers these young farmers had left behind were landscape architecture, engineering, horticulture and vet nursing.

Stock manager Michael Bolton says he saw the course advertised on Facebook and applied because he believes the sheep and beef sector lacked passionate, young people to take it into the future.

Katrina McMillan, who is now milking sheep after having worked in the horticultural industry, saw Generation Next as a chance to grow her skills and develop her resource network.

For several it was an opportunity to grow their knowledge base and upskill on the use of technology in all aspects of the industry.

Issac Allan is a junior block manager on Glenrock Station and had gone farming after completing an engineering course at Aoraki polytech. He says while he was always going to go farming, he was encouraged by his parents to have an alternative career to fall back on.

For Issac, Generation Next has been very valuable.

“It’s made a huge difference. I’m seeing a different way of doing things on top of what managers have already taught me.”

Generation Next was the brainchild of B+LNZ’s Southern South Island Extension manager Olivia Ross and she made it a reality with the support of the Southern South Island Farmer Council.
Launched in Southland in 2015, the programme has extended north and now covers all of the South Island.

Twenty applicants from each of the three South Island regions are selected every year and so far, there have been 95 graduates.

Olivia believes Generation Next’s success is due to it being a technical programme for practical people while focusing on their goals and aspirations.

“The commitment is minimal and the payback for the time they invest is priceless. It’s been humbling to see the programme sell itself.”

Olivia says there has been interest in making the programme available throughout New Zealand and it will be available in the lower Eastern North Island in 2021.

Read more about B+LNZ's Generation Next Programme