Wednesday, 20 March 2024 09:55

From Sky Tower to cowshed

Written by  Staff Reporters
Donald’s Farm manager Sam Waugh. Donald’s Farm manager Sam Waugh.

Every morning dairy farmer Sam Waugh sees the Auckland Sky Tower through his window. It's a great reminder of one of his key life goals - giving young people from towns and cities insights into farm life.

The 31-year-old runs NZ Young Farmers' Donald's Farm in Whitford, about 30km southeast of Auckland. Last year, the farm hosted 900 primary and secondary school visitors, aiming to build up to 5000 a year.

"It's awesome showing young people around the farm to learn how milk goes from grass to glass. We're hoping to attract the next generation of farmers," Waugh says.

"Most of the students haven't been on a dairy farm before so it's great seeing their reaction when they see cows close up and check out the native tree planting we're doing on the farm."

Dairy farmer Donald Pearson donated Donald's Farm to NZ Young Farmers because he wanted to support a strong future for Kiwis in agriculture.

"There are lots of career opportunities including farm assistants, managers, farm owners and rural professionals. There are also great opportunities at industry good organisations such as DairyNZ, which supports farmers with research, resources and advocacy," Waugh says.

Earlier this month Donald's Farm held an open day as part of the national Open Farms initiative, where farms of all types throughout New Zealand host members of the public to see farming first-hand.

Waugh's love for agriculture began when he was a high school student in Kimbolton in Manawatū, working on local farms. He knew it was his future so studied for a Bachelor of Commerce and Agriculture at Lincoln University.

While studying, he developed a passion for community service and got involved in NZ Young Farmers, which he finds tremendously rewarding. The non-profit organisation connects and empowers young people in rural communities.

Waugh says it's a lot of fund. "You meet a lot of great people and volunteer for awesome initiatives, giving back to the sector and local communities."

Over six years, he chaired NZ Young Farmers' Lincoln Club, then the Christchurch district and Tasman region, as he moved up through the organisation. He then served on the national board for two years, helping give young people a voice in local and national decision-making affecting rural communities.

After working as a farm consultant for four years, Waugh lived in England with his wife Liana for 1.5 years. Sam says they had a great time exploring new places and seeing different ways of living and farming.

When they returned to New Zealand in 2020, Sam jumped at the chance to manage Donald's Farm - his first management role.

"I get a lot of personal development out of making all the farming decisions and get a real kick out of developing the education programme with the farm's board of directors."

Donald's Farm has 74 hectares and is home to 125 cows, including milking shorthorns - a rare breed on Kiwi dairy farms - and light brown Jerseys.

Future plans for the farm include creating an educational centre for children to learn about food, farming and nature, adding to the farm's role as an outdoor classroom.

"We're keen to have students come back to the farm multiple times throughout their schooling to develop their knowledge of what it's like on a farm," Sam says. "It's awesome to see young people grow more confident around the animals and on the farm every time they visit."

The visits teach children about the whole agriculture sector including dairy, sheep and beef farming, horticulture and forestry. One of the programmes offered to schools involved people from more than 35 primary sector organisations showcasing the work that they do, helping to highlight the breadth of opportunities within the sector.

"This encourages students to realise there is so much more to agriculture than they might have realised," Waugh says.

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