With another National Fieldays done and dusted for the year it is an opportune time to reflect on the current state of New Zealand’s primary sector.
National Fieldays at Mystery Creek is an event for everybody.
Over the years, it has become more than a place to catch up with friends, see the latest equipment and take a day off farm with the promise of Fieldays bargains.
Now it is where science, research, development and marketing meet. It is a place to discuss new ideas, test the old ones and hear about future prospects.
It isn’t just the technologies of the future, it is the jobs of the future that can be discussed. More and more school parties, some coming from agri-programmes, are part of the scene. For these school students, agriculture could be their future. For others it is simply a day out of the classroom, but that gives the opportunity for inspiring them.
The problem for all adults, including parents, is that it’s difficult to advise students about how careers really work today. Parents love their children and want to set them up for a life of self-sufficiency, meaning and happiness. But at the same time, the world of work has changed and so have the goals of the young.
At the end of last year, Manpower Research released information on the top five priorities for millennials when looking for a job. Money was in the top 5 for 92% of respondents, security for 87%, holidays and time off for 86%, working with great people for 80% and flexible working hours for 77%.
Agriculture, in all that it encompasses -- the land, processing, advisory work, marketing, research and development – fits the bill.
Robots are not going to take over all the jobs. They might take over some, and that might be a blessing, but somebody has to develop the robots and fix them and design the new ones. And those people will understand the business and the problems, and the skills and knowledge to create the solutions.
Synthetic food is not going to fill all the mouths. Certainly if the price comes down some people will switch for some meals, but synthetic food is not ‘natural’ nor is it without environmental impact. And though in the future it might meet the convenience factor, the all- natural, few ingredients, non-processed label is still premium.
Crucially important for the future will be the people who understand how to manage resources and produce food sustainably (minimum impact on the environment while maintaining economic viability). They will be in demand because as the population increases globally resources will become scarcer. And so will food.
The question for the future is simply, What does the world need and how do my interests align? That way lies a good career.
Collectively, New Zealanders are producers of superb food and can be proud of what their work has achieved for the country.
Despite all statements that we should be finding something else to do as a country, primary production is still 75% of our export economy and the most productive sector (apart from retail) over the last ten years. Annual growth has been 2.8% in multi-factor productivity.
Be proud to be a part of the sector and encourage others to follow. What they want is what we can offer, and what we offer can be seen at Mystery Creek.
And the event is still a place to meet friends and find bargains.
• Dr Jacqueline Rowarth CNZM CRSNZ HFNZIAHS is a soil scientist and taught at various tertiary institutions in Australasia for over 30 years. Her first visit to Mystery Creek was in 1976.