Humbling to be picked for international conference

Reporter Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes speaking to sheep and beef farmer Grant McNaughton, of North Otago.

Q. You are one of the 28 farmers from 12 countries spending 10 days up to Wednesday next week across New Zealand as part of the Rabobank Global Farmers Master Class, an agri learning programme to address global food security. How did you get selected?

Rabobank rang me and invited me to partake.

Q. The promotional material says participating farmers have been handpicked based on selection criteria which targeted innovative, environmentally-progressive and passionate decision-makers willing to share ideas, learn from others and invest in a sustainable future for agriculture?

We really enjoy what we do, and the challenges and opportunities it provides us. Its humbling to be seen as a handpicked farmer to join the programme.

Q. Past events have been held in the Netherlands, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Have you attended one of these events before?

No, this is a first time for me.

Q. The programme has been billed as featuring presentations from top agricultural thinkers and business experts, interactive workshops and case studies, as well as visits to a range of flagship agribusiness operations in the North and South Islands. What are you most looking forward to?

Not one thing over any other. It is nice to immerse yourself in something, absorb the knowledge and meet good people. It is imperative to always be fertilising your mind and challenge yourself because these sorts of things are about personal growth and development, which is rewarding and fulfilling.

Q. Is global food security something you think about when you’re farming?

It is. Farmers have an important role to play, providing sustainable production and good nutrition to our own country and the world.

Q. Farmers attending the programme are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, Peru, the United States and Zimbabwe. Do you think you will be able to learn something from them?

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

Q. Do you see 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.


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