Food security focus of farming master class

The backcountry of Canterbury’s Quartz Hill Station will be one of many lasting impressions overseas farmers take home with them after gaining insights into feeding the world.

The station visit last Friday was one of many pit stops for farmers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, Peru, the United States and Zimbabwe attending a Rabobank Global Farmers Master Class programme to learn more about global food security.

They heard presentations from top agricultural thinkers and business experts, went to interactive workshops and visited a range of agribusiness operations in the North and South Islands.

Accompanying them were Gisborne horticulture, sheep and beef farmer Tam Jex-Blake, Bay of Plenty dairy farmer Rory Bragg, North Otago sheep and beef farmer Grant McNaughton, South Taranaki dairy and beef farmer Mark Stevenson and northern Southland livestock and cropping farmer Michael Wilkins.

Farmers were selected based on their innovative, environmentally progressive and passionate skill sets as decision makers willing to share ideas, learn from others and invest in a sustainable future for agriculture.

Mr McNaughton said it was nice to immerse himself in the programme, absorb the knowledge and meet good people.

"We really enjoy what we do, and the challenges and opportunities it provides us.

"Its humbling to be seen as a hand-picked farmer to join the programme."

Farmers thought about global food security when they were farming.

Farmers had an important role to play in providing sustainable production and good nutrition to their own countries and the world, he said.

"When you put elite people in a room, even though there are geographic differences, the challenges can be similar so it is always fascinating to see how someone from the other side of the world has challenges in their business and how similar they are to your own.

"You only have to pick up one gold nugget or relationship and it can really influence your business."

He saw a sustainable future for sheep and beef farming.

"I’m an eternal optimist and I know there is a lot of negativity around price and markets currently, but pricing cycles always go in ebbs and flows.

"The long-term strategy for supplying a high-end protein to the world will continue to grow so I think we are in a good position for what we do here in New Zealand, which, by-in-large is very efficient, environmentally friendly, audited to the highest levels.

"I reckon if you are supplying a leading edge product like lamb into the global market and we have the backing of auditing and certification processes, we will be in a good spot but we’ve got to keep moving and getting better and better."

The programme is due to end today in Queenstown.

By Tim Cronshaw and Shawn McAvinue


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