17 August 2018
Building the confidence in the next generation of young farmers is the focus of a series of new farm discussion groups in the Ruapehu District.
A group of Taumarunui farmers, meeting to discuss local farming opportunities under the Accelerate25 Regional Growth project, realised there were a number of young people returning home to take over family farms. These young farmers are coming in with new energy, are open-minded and bringing in new ideas.
To support this next generation of farmers and to get them more engaged, a Next Generation Extension Group was formed last year, to create a space where farmers in the 20 to 40 age group could get involved. The group was smaller than a traditional discussion group, which allowed farmers to get to know and trust each other, and the approach proved successful.
At the same time, the Red Meat Profit Partnership was setting up its RMPP Action Network groups, so to avoid doubling up the Next Generation Extension Group restructured itself into that RMPP format, and several more groups are being established in the Ruapehu District. The primary objective of the discussion group project is to provide the support that the young farmers themselves have identified they need, and help give them the confidence to re-invest in their farming businesses.
Agriculture is a key part of Accelerate25, a regional economic development plan aimed at improving the economy of the whole Manawatu-Whanganui region, which includes Ruapehu.
“Tourism tends to get the headlines,” Ruapehu District Mayor Don Cameron says, “but agriculture still provides a strong foundation for our economy. It’s important that we support the next generation of farmers, so they will continue to invest in their farming businesses and bring new ideas and practices to the District.
“We’re delighted with the success of these discussion groups so far and hope they will continue to inform and inspire the new generation of farmers in our area.”
Mayor Don said Council also hopes our town revitalisation projects will help encourage potential next-generation farmers to return to the area.
“Many of these young people have had time away from the farm and are returning with a partner, and maybe with a young family. That means big changes for everyone. More attractive towns, and more employment and recreation opportunities for partners and families will make the decision to return easier,” said Mayor Don.
“Our young farmers are facing new issues. These include the challenges of climate change, which is very real in the District following the rain storm and tornadoes a couple of months ago, and freshwater requirements with a whole-of-catchment approach that includes iwi. While challenging, the approach of these groups is kaitiakitanga – in the knowledge the land and water have been well-managed to ensure they can hand their property onto following generations.”