Southland student Hamish Goatley is using his love of tractors and machinery to make hay while the sun shines.

The 18-year-old spent six weeks over the summer school holidays driving for an agricultural contractor.

“It was an amazing learning experience. I really enjoyed it. It was my first season operating a round baler,” said Hamish.

Hamish is the vice-chair of Gore High School’s thriving TeenAg club.

He lives on a lifestyle block with his mother and uses her conventional hay baler to operate his own small business.

“It was quite a successful season. We made between 6000-6500 conventional bales of hay for lifestyle blocks and the equine industry,” he said.

“We fitted in all of the work after school and on weekends.”

“I’m looking at upgrading some of the machinery ahead of the coming harvest season next summer,” he said.

Hamish was fortunate to spend three days last week honing his leadership skills at a unique course run by NZ Young Farmers.

He was one of 18 TeenAg members from across the South Island selected to attend the leadership programme in Canterbury.

“I got a lot out of it. There was an inspiring line-up of young speakers from the agri-food sector who generously shared what they knew,” he said. 

Students were taught how to set goals, communicate confidently, manage their time, network effectively and budget.

The course called Raising the Standards took place at Blinc Innovation’s offices at Lincoln University and was funded by DairyNZ.

It was designed to enhance the skills of emerging leaders within TeenAg clubs.  

“The aim is to increase students’ awareness of opportunities in the primary industries while helping to hone their leadership skills,” said Mary Holmes from NZ Young Farmers. 

“They learned about the wide range of agri-related scholarships on offer. There are more than 250 available and their value exceeds $3 million.”

Guest speakers included an agri-business banker, former Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award finalist Cheyenne Wilson, FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist Georgie Lindsay and the Canterbury-North Otago dairy trainee of the year Nicola Blowey.

“A lot of the tips we were given and skills we were taught will be extremely beneficial both at school and in the workplace,” he said.

Hamish is in his final year at Gore High School and is considering studying a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) or a Diploma in Farm Management at Lincoln University next year.

He’s passionate about giving back to his community and recently finished training to become a volunteer firefighter.

The leadership course brought together TeenAg members from a dozen South Island high schools, including Southland Girls’ High School.

“It was really interesting to learn about the different challenges other TeenAg clubs face and how members have dealt with them,” he said.

The course is one of three planned across New Zealand this year.  

“As the course facilitator it was humbling to see students’ confidence grow and for them to leave with new goals and a network of life-long friendships,” said Mary Holmes. 

TeenAg clubs are a key part of the work being done by NZ Young Farmers to attract students into the agri-food sector.  

List of schools involved: Gore High School, Geraldine High School, Kaikoura High School, St Bede’s College, Southland Girls’ High School, Ashburton College, Lincoln High School, Christchurch Girls’ High School, Marlborough Girls’ College, St Kevin’s College, Mackenzie College and John McGlashan College.