Lincoln scholars showcase agri opportunities to high schoolers

06 September 2023 | News

Three Lincoln University students wrapped up a successful third-year project recently that involved showcasing food and fibre career opportunities to high schoolers from around the country.

Agri-ventures, aimed at year 11 and 12 students, has been running for the past five years as part of Lincoln’s Future Leader Scholarship programme. However, it was available nationally for the first time in 2023, thanks to the work of scholars Fergus Lee, Danielle Bain and Campbell Barclay.

"We signed up 17 passionate high school students from around the country – as far north as Whangarei and as far south as Invercargill – many of whom are from urban areas," Fergus said.

"They spent two action-packed days learning about as many career opportunities as possible in the New Zealand food and fibre sector.

"A lot of schools, especially urban ones, don’t teach agriculture as a subject, so unless the students have cousins on farms or watch Country Calendar, there aren’t many resources to find out what’s happening in the sector. That was the core reason for the project."

Danielle said she had wanted to run Agri-ventures for years, because she attended the programme as a year 12 student and “absolutely loved it”.

"It opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities available in the agriculture sector, which led me to study at Lincoln."

The event kicked off with Meat the Need Founder, new Federated Farmers National President and Lincoln University alumnus, Wayne Langford, sharing the challenges and wins he had experienced on his journey to success and offering advice on mental well-being in a rural context.

The students then visited Cleardale Station, where they heard from high country farmer, Ben Todhunter (also a Lincoln alumnus), about sheep and beef farming, including the importance of genetics when it comes to selecting for the best sheep.

Other locations on the agenda were Rakaia Island Ltd to cover dairy careers, and PGG Wrightson Ltd to gain insights into the wool industry and the need for more woollen fabrics instead of synthetics, as well as discovering the range of career paths at the company.

The trip also included visits to Farmers Mutual Group (FMG) HQ to explore the careers available there, PGG Wrightson Seeds Kimihia Arable Research Farm for information on the seed industry, and the FoodStuffs South Island warehouse to see the end products along the food supply chain.

In running the event nationwide, Fergus said the scholars needed to provide accommodation for the participants, requiring a significant amount of funding in comparison to other years.

A wide range of sponsors supported the initiative, many of whom also hosted the students during their visit, including PGG Wrightson Ltd and PGG Wrightson Seeds, Rakaia Island Ltd and FMG.  

Other sponsors were Silverwood Trust, Ballance Agri-nutrients and Lincoln University, as well as Southland businesses, Legendairies Ltd and Mokoreta Genetics Sheep and Beef Farm.

"I have worked as a summer student for Legendairies and Mokoreta during my summer holidays and both are role models in their industries and are committed to attracting more young people into agriculture," Fergus said.

As part of the Future Leader Scholarship programme, all third-year scholars are tasked with initiating a project of their choice and working on the delivery with a team of first and second-year scholars.

Ilse von Hirschberg, who runs the scholarship programme, said Agri-ventures was usually hosted in partnership with Lincoln University staff members.

"But this year, the team did it all by themselves, which is very impressive."
Lincoln University Future Leader scholars and New Zealand high school students during their visit to PGG Wrightson Ltd as part of the scholars' Agri-ventures project.