Community connection vital

Sharing knowledge and wisdom across all ages and stages of farming helps everyone get ahead while connecting rural communities. We talk to two farmers who’re doing just that.

Inside Dairy

3 min read

Dairy farmers Neil Bateup from Waikato and Marv Pangborn from Canterbury exemplify this approach, giving back over many decades to the sector and communities.

Neil chairs the Rural Support Trust and the Waikato primary sector adverse events group. Marv is involved in a Grassroots Dairy Graduate Management Programme in Canterbury, supporting university graduates to have a successful start in farming.

Neil says farmers talking to each other is hugely important. “Discussing what is and isn’t working, and how to manage challenging situations, is a great way for farmers to support each other. Field days, DairyNZ events, social gatherings and one-on-one catchups are invaluable ways of connecting,” he says.

“Young farmers who haven’t experienced adverse events before, such as drought or floods, learn a lot from older farmers who’ve been through it. Having that support and connection helps people feel much better, and they can focus on what they need to do to get the best outcomes.”

Neil and Eileen’s family dairy farm is in Te Hoe, North Waikato, where Neil grew up. With a 50:50 sharemilker on the farm, Neil has more time for the Rural Support Trust.

Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup says it’s important farming communities remain connected as farming and technology continue to evolve.

There’s no such thing as a dumb question.

Neil Bateup

He got involved in community work when he saw so many people helping others in the rural community. He was also inspired by local farmers in the 1980s rallying to support each other when agricultural subsidies were removed.

“A neighbour set up a volleyball court in our local hall, and teams from five Te Hoe roads played twice a week then went home to milk the cows. It helped lighten the mood, and gave us a real sense of community – we’re all in this together.”

Neil encourages farmers who need help to connect with other farmers and organisations such as the Rural Support Trust and DairyNZ, which have a wealth of information and resources.

“Farmers are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. There is no one recipe so you learn from others what will work best in your farming system. There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

Marv and Jane Pangborn’s 225ha Alderbrook Farm in Selwyn, Canterbury has 850 cows. It’s operated by daughter Lauren and son-in-law Liam Kelly. Marv and Jane run a 125ha support block, and Marv says it’s great to have a succession plan in place.

He’s a ninth-generation farmer, dating back to his forebears who began farming in New York in the 1660s, before moving to mixed farming in America’s mid-west, including cattle, pigs and grain.

Discussing what is and isn’t working, and how to manage challenging situations, is a great way for farmers to support each other.

Neil Bateup

After emigrating to New Zealand, Marv learned from some of the best in the sector. He says farmers are his favourite people in the world and he’s passionate about giving back to the sector.

That’s why he’s involved in the Grassroots programme in Canterbury, which sees experienced farmers supporting graduates to transition towards running successful farm businesses. The older farmers mentor the graduates and help them make social connections when moving to rural communities.

Canterbury farmer Marv Pangborn enjoys sharing knowledge with young farmers joining the dairy sector. Photo: Farmers Weekly

As a farm management lecturer at Lincoln University for many years, Marv says he enjoys helping develop future leaders.

“When I see young farmers on Country Calendar, in the media and supporting other farmers, I get a great deal of satisfaction,” he says.

.... innovation, research and practical solutions are so important.

Marv Pangborn

Marv has also been a partner farmer in DairyNZ’s Meeting a Sustainable Future project, which helps farmers in Selwyn and Hinds align their farming with environmental standards while ensuring profit and resilience.

Key goals include reducing nitrogen loss to meet Environment Canterbury targets and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Marv says it’s important the balance is right between sustainability, profitability and contributing to local rural communities.

He says a key value gained by DairyNZ and farmers working together on research is that the results are shared with farmers in a way that’s practical to implement on farm.

“The history of farming in New Zealand is one of adaptation and change and we’ll continue to adapt into the future. That’s why innovation, research and practical solutions are so important,” Marv says.

Find out how you can get more involved in supporting your farming community, – and tap into more resources, by visiting:

Page last updated:

12 Jun 2024