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About 100 farmers attended Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s annual FarmSmart conference at Addington Raceway last month, where Canterbury-based board directors Nicky Hyslop and Kate Acland discussed the organisation’s referendum and northern South Island farmers’ council chairman Fraser Avery kicked things off by talking about resilience.
"The key message is we are in a referendum year, so we really encourage farmers to get out and vote. It’s just so important that we have their mandate," Mrs Hyslop said.
A referendum was held every six years to give farmers a chance to have their say on the future of the levy-funded organisation and voting closes on Friday.
A changing world, the environment, trade, recruiting young people, research and development, genetics and influencing government policy were priorities for B+LNZ going forward, Mrs Hyslop said.
"As farmers we understand the bow wave of issues that are coming forward and the change ahead of us, so that’s one of our goals, to make sure in terms of policy that we influence wherever we can to ensure sensible outcomes. We know that’s really frustrating farmers at the moment.
"It’s not the direction of travel. We certainly support good water quality, looking after our soils, biodiversity, all of those really important things and mitigating climate change. We acknowledge we are part of that solution, but we want to see sensible policy and we’re not always seeing that."
Recent flooding, on the back of the long running drought, had a big impact on farmers in the region and new board member Mrs Acland’s property was in the midst of the flooding.
"We’ve had close to half our annual rainfall in one weekend, but it’s something we face as farmers and one of the themes today is about resilience and dealing with these events and remaining strong and resilient in the face of it," Mrs Acland said.
In his opening address, Mr Avery said the Aclands had received more rain in five days than his farm received in 18 months, which highlighted the need for resilience.
Resilience began with "understanding ourselves — how we manage ourselves and the people around us", he said.
"Life happens. How we deal it is what defines us.
"Some people tell me that right now is the most challenging time they’ve ever seen in farming, but for me I’ve never seen more opportunities. So it’s all about mindset."
Mr Avery also noted the growing acknowledgement of the roles women had always played in the rural sector, which was echoed by Canterbury’s two B+LNZ board directors.
"I think throughout the country you’ll find farming is a partnership, so it’s not unusual to have women really strongly involved," Mrs Acland said.
"And I think it’s just that now we are seeing so much more acknowledgement and confidence from women to come forward. But they’ve always been an important part of farming partnerships," Mrs Hyslop added.