With an enforced absence of two years, brought about by its cancellation in 2020, the Central District Field Days at Feilding heralded the first event of its type for 2021.
The event is aimed at exciting and informing young people about employment opportunities across the agricultural sector.
Pitched at school pupils, school leavers and career changers, the “Food & Fibre Discovery Challenge” will have participants following clues and answering questions as they navigate around the grounds between participating exhibitors.
The challenge is the brainchild of Olivia Ross, Beef+Lamb NZ extension manager for the Southern South Island, who is passionate about getting young people into employment in the sector.
Ross says it follows on from her successful “Generation Next: Our Future’s Sheep & Beef Farmers” programme, also run by Beef+Lamb NZ, which involves up-and-coming young farmers in a series of learning workshops.
She says that with the SFDs bringing a whole lot of sites, exhibitors and businesses to one place and 41,000 people expected through the gates; “Why not make the most of that opportunity to share the careers on offer?”
It would be “a great fun way” to get around field days, while connecting with training opportunities and career pathways and meeting employers.
Participants will sign up at one of four starting points, the exhibition sites of Beef+Lamb, Dairy NZ, Federated Farmers or the Dairy Women’s Network, and work their way through the challenge to end up back at the Beef+Lamb finish line.
Ross says they will go around the different “pits-tops” identifying different career pathways and opportunities, answering questions as they go and discovering new knowledge.
“Like an Amazing Race, we plan to have ‘detours’ where decisions will need to be made, ‘roadblocks’ where some tasks and fun will be had and some ‘U-turns’ where some backtracking and thinking will be required – along with a few ‘speed bumps’.
“Hopefully the idea is they will discover some careers they might never have thought of that will interest them.”
The event will be free to enter. Primary school pupils can make up teams of four, with a teacher or parent accompanying them. Older students, career changers and others can form teams of two.
There will be spot prizes and overall winner prizes up for grabs – with the chance to spend a day with an employer in a chosen occupation.
“When they’ve completed the challenge we will ask them which two careers on the day they really found interesting and if they would like to know more about,” says Ross.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to connect them with that career employer and they will be able to spend a day with them.”
Ross is still signing up participating sites, but is hoping for anything between 30 and 50. Each will be identified by large real estate-style signage.
“And the whole idea about having signs like that is that when the general public are walking past who aren’t part of it you might get them asking questions as well.”
Ross also hopes that any farmers, who usually attend the show alone, might see how the challenge works and bring the kids along the following day.
The Food & Fibre Discovery Challenge will run for the whole three days of the show.
Although participants will register on the day, Ross says organisers would appreciate schools letting them know what days they intend sending groups of pupils.