Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Still winter in Becks

I'm sitting inside near the sun
but actually within reach of the heat of a heater
reflecting on another successful Nat Com.

It's been a National Committee meeting weekend
and this time we brought the Young Farmer leadership
to Becks in Central Otago.

You remember Becks?
That's were Ben and Nessie live.
Yup the place with two pubs
and four Hore houses.
Nessie's is one of the Hore houses.
Ah makes me laugh every time.

Both pubs are called the
White Horse Hotel
not after the whiskey though but
because for a long time
the Upper Manuherikia Valley was known for 
the high number of white horses that lived there.
The pub above is the original pub and for a long time
it was just the stone building
then the wooden building was rolled across the road on logs.
When it was across the road it was the community hall.

I love knowing this stuff.

Anyway back to Nat Com.
Every year twice a year we bring together our Board
and our Regional Chairs and some vice chairs
together for a two day meeting.
There they discuss and decide a bunch of things for the organisation
like their opinion on any new branding,
timing of Grand Final and conference,
how to engage more with members,
can we really be bothered having an exchange programme.
While my job is to implement what is decided
it is the role of Nat Com to give me direction.
It's like having 20 bosses who are all care
and little responsibility.

This is what our really great bunch of Young Farmer leaders
look like in the freezing cold on the top of the Blackstone Hills
in Central Otago.
Ah the serenrity.

One of the great things about having Nat Com in a rural setting
was that everyone gets to go on a farm tour.
Ben and Nessie have a 10,000 acre high country station.
That means it's a livestock farm pretty dry, rocky, mountainous land.
Ever since Ben and Ness put in a centre pivot two years ago
they have had really good rainfall so
at the moment the Valley is quite green and grass is plentiful.
They have 10,000 merino sheep and a hundred or so cattle.
In the States this would make them ranchers.
In New Zealand they are farmers.
They grow wool for Icebreaker and meat for Silver Fern Farms.
They feed and clothe the world.
Big job that.

Speaking of big jobs,
we met perhaps New Zealand's busiest man
We invited him because of his position as a Fonterra Director
and he came an inspired all of us
with his down to earth, good natured, opportunity knocks
story of building from starting his own electrical business
to being a director on NZ largest company and
maybe the world's largest milk supplier.
He has a heap of roles along the way not in the least
Chair of the Taranaki Regional Council,
director of Parininihi ki Waitotara
and is a National Council member of Local Government NZ.
Not bad for a Maori boy from the 'Naki
(his words).
David made his journey from High School to Fonterra sound a bit like luck
but his underlying message was one of thinking strategically,
making the most of your opportunities and not waiting for them to come to you.
But most of all family first.

In a couple of days of really good speakers*,
he was the highlight.

After all the talking and watching the closing in weather,
we finished our meeting,
headed back to Nessie's houses,
got dressed up in our warmest gear,
jumped in utes and disappeared for a high country station farm tour.

This may surprise some but not others,
the young women (they are under 30) on our Nat Com team
are all hands on farmers.
Ness runs the Blackstone Hills Station with her husband Ben,
Keri dairy farms, running one of two farms with her husband Hamish,
Lisa is currently at Lincoln Uni studying Ag Sciences but was a shepherd,
Ruth is 2IC on a dairy farm near Dannevirke.
Dunno why it would surprise people but it does.

Above Ness is explaining the lay of the land,
with a bit of showcasing her working dogs in the yards,
and a good dose of micron and fibre talk with a hand from Scotty the stock agent.

After a day long meeting
(farmers find is exhausting sitting still and listening for hours)
and a rugged, bumpy but relaxed farm tour
we all headed to the shearing shed for a two tooth merino on a spit
(cause only townies like lamb)
and a slap up BBQ dinner,
with a few beers and cake,
as showcased by my lovely assistant Ruth.

(whats the Dairy for Life jacket doing in a shearing shed?!?!)

Visiting Ben and Nessie is one of my favourite things to do.
Like many high country farmers, they love to having people stay
and nothing is a problem as long as the animals come first.
They were wonderful hosts and I can't wait to visit again.
P.S. Even if I did get a speeding ticket on my way home.

*I'll post about Big Wig Day speakers tomorrow.

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