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Gisborne initiative to encourage people in to the rural sector

Wednesday, 5 January 2005
Tectra’s Lew Willoughby has recently been associated with a new initiative to help attract young people into the rural sector.  At the Gisborne Monitor Farm, efforts are being made to encourage young local shepherds to attend community group meetings to get a taste of the day to day business decisions made when running a farm.

Lew Willoughby

Lew believes this experience is of great benefit to young people entering the industry -“This gives them an excellent opportunity to be part of the give and take of argument and discussion for farm policy, and it doesn’t hurt if we offer them a beer afterwards as well!”


Initiatives like this are indicative of a general drive towards encouraging young people into rural sector employment. During the downturn in farming in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s less and less people were deciding to pursue agriculture courses or enter the industry. Evidence of this lies in the fact that the average age of a shearer is now somewhere in the late 30’s or early 40's, and there are a significant number of shearers who are over 50.

The continuing shortage of skilled farm staff and managers is another clear result of the lack of entrants into agriculture in this time.

Lew strongly believes we need to work to attract quality young people to the rural sector by rewarding them and making sure they understand the value of their work.

Recent improvements in economic returns to sheep and beef farmers over the past five years are attracting young people back to the industry however it is vital that farmers recognise that there can be other ways to reward staff apart from wages. Things like tickets to rugby matches or even time of to get to ‘pop concerts’ can be a great incentive for staff. Time off to attend courses can have a double whammy effect. Attending a shearing school will not only teach the basics of shearing but will also include the skills for setting up a handpiece and grinding gear which is useful when there is dagging to be done!!

Lew believes that time spent off farm learning additional farming skills keeps young people from getting stale and builds their skills and value to the whole agricultural scene in NZ

The Gisborne Monitor Farm initiative is a great example of this – hopefully the idea will catch on in other regions.