Farmers, our most important asset
When aiming for a career as a rural professional, Hannah Goodwin got a deal better than she could have ever imagined. Today Hannah finds herself on the road, discussing the most important farm asset – the farmer. Risk management with FMG is the nitty gritty of a variable that is more volatile than the weather, humans.
Hannah has been invited to speak at the launch of the inaugural New Zealand Agri Investment Week, representing the oldest of three youth brackets, young professional. She has chosen to cover two topics that are at the forefront of her mind, the future of agriculture in New Zealand and the health aspect of the increasingly important health and safety.
According to Hannah, diversification is going to be increasingly important to ensure kiwi farmers don’t feel the pinch when the market shifts and the dollar drops. She realises that convincing farmers to move away from traditional farming practices is going to be the challenge, but being able to prove the benefits will be the key to success. This change fits perfectly with the necessary change in attitude around how farmers look after themselves. “With the changes in laws around health and safety so many people and companies are really concerned with the safety aspect. However they neglect the health aspect, which is equally, if not more important,” says Hannah. “The future is our people, and the people is what we have to look after.”
When it comes to the image of agri, Hannah is the perfect individual to discuss how it feels to be on the inside looking out. Hannah grew up on a farm in the Hawke’s Bay and even after moving to Palmerston North for university, was back on the farm working almost every weekend. Hannah completed Bachelor of AgriCommerce at Massey University and then went straight in to a career as a rural professional. From Hawke’s Bay, to Feilding, to Taranaki, Hannah has always been immersed in a rural community and believes that many people are affected more directly by the agriculture industry than they realise. “If farmers are having a tough time, the local businesses they support probably have it worse. Farmers generally have assets to fall back on but for those small businesses who rely on the cash flow, they might not be so fortunate.”
Hannah believes it is easy to focus on the negative side of agri, the stories of hardship and drama are often what get the most attention from the media, which creates a stigma around careers and education in agri. “My high school didn’t even offer ag or hort papers,” explains Hannah. “The careers advisor didn’t even know anything about it and tried to persuade me away from studying agriculture at university”. Thankfully, a lot has changed in the years since Hannah has completed her degree and entered the workforce. “I’m pretty sure my old high school even has a TeenAg club now, it’s come a long way!”
Hannah is very aware of the ‘urban rural divide’ but is quick to point out this is an issue that can only be fixed by two willing parties. She thinks it is too easy for the knowledgeable and experienced members of the agri sector to sit back and point a finger at the rest of the country for not knowing a thing about the agricultural industry. “It’s up to the farming community to make a change and not allow this to happen.” The difficulty comes when exposing people who have no experience with agri, to a rural environment and all of the hazards that come with it. To allow for the greatest understanding a hands on experience is a must, but it is a huge feat that’s impossible to accomplish in large groups of people. Openness to integration and education form a young age, for those who haven’t grown up on a farm, is crucial to the sustainability of New Zealand agriculture.
Hannah’s plans for the future are mirrored by her new fiancé Cam. Together they share a passion for agri with Cam working for BNZ’s Rural Department. Both of their careers have stemmed from a love of the land and their goals, like many young New Zealanders, lay the path for land ownership one day.