Reports of herd mismanagement, negative effects of dairying on the environment and a move to plant-based milk products to support animal welfare and lessen the impacts of farming on the environment are creating negative attitudes towards farming.
Agri Training Project Manager Trina Moore believes those misconceptions are hampering people getting into dairy farming. Misconceptions that she has seen change in trainees of the Agri Training rural retrain programme.
“We set up the programme when Covid-19 hit and we saw restrictions on the borders constraining workers coming from overseas. We knew the primary sectors were struggling for workers.
“The programme is designed to introduce people to the primary industries, beginning with an online webinar where we all get to know each and then introducing a mixture of information on the primary sector and a handful of soft skills like interview techniques and CV writing. Our aim is to get people through the training and out into work.
“We have worked with career changes, school leavers and unemployed people and what has surprised us is that a large group of people are coming through with preconceived ideas and misconceptions about working in the dairy industry.”
Ms Moore believes those misconceptions are hindering the industry. Misconceptions that she has seen change in Agri Training’s rural retrain programme. It’s not that we talk it up, it’s that we keep it honest. We get people on farm, introduce them to experts and farmers within the different sectors and ask them to roll their sleeves up and give it a try.
Amy Luckhurst is one of those trainees. Having her OE cut short by Covid-19, Ms Luckhurst arrived home to no job and little prospect of finding one. “I was applying for 50 jobs a day. In that time I received only one rejection letter, people just didn’t even bother to respond to my applications.
Feeling anxious about her prospects she saw an expozay on Seven Sharp about work in the primary industries. “I started searching online for the course when I came across Agri Training’s rural retraining programme.”
Coming from a career in hospitality and with a degree majoring in botany and minoring in physical geography, she didn’t hold much hope on getting a look in, but was blown away by being accepted onto the training.
“I was amazed to get a phone call about the training.”
Ms Luckhurst was hoping the training may lead to work in the high country or orchard work that would make use of her botany degree.
“The only industry I wasn’t interested in working in was dairy. What shocked me was how wrong I was.
“I have always worked with people in hospitality, but I realised you put up with a lot when working with people which you don’t have to when dealing with cows. Each has their own personality: I have one that licks the back of legs to get attention, another that gently knocks me over when she needs noticing and a couple that won’t come in for milking until they get a cuddle.”
Ms Luckhurst was shocked by the amount the farmers are doing to mitigate the environmental impact dairy is having and the love they have for their animals. “The owner and team I work with have so much knowledge and enthusiasm for the industry it would be hard not to be passionate.”
Vedant Jayarjar has been working in hospitality for 14 years when he decided he wanted a new start. “I wanted to get outside and work in the fresh air.”
Mr Jayarjar wasn’t sure how he would make the transition from chef to working on the land. Searching Facebook helped solve that problem when he came across the Agri Training rural retrain programme. Once accepted on the programme, he packed his bags and moved from Wellington to join the trainees. He has now made the south his home.
“I was hoping to find work in horticultural or arable farming, but I landed a job on a dairy farm. I like the environment, the way people work, how supportive they are and the good mentors I am surrounded by.
“It’s a good lifestyle. I have furnished accommodation and a schedule that works well for me.”
According to Ms Moore, the success from the rural retrain programme has been phenomenal. “Of 257 attendees over our eight rural retrain online webinars and from the 78 people who completed our 13-day live-in rural retrain programme, we have a 92% success rate for finding employment for people who want it. The results speak volumes.”
This story featured in Farmer’s Weekly