Beth and Jemima flew to Brussels in October, joining 100 delegates from 49 countries at the 2017 Youth Ag-Summit. The pair were picked to fly the Kiwi flag after taking part in a tough essay competition that attracted 1200 applicants worldwide.
At the summit, the two women heard from guest speakers on sustainability, innovation and leadership. They also worked with other delegates to develop ideas for driving agricultural progress across the globe and in their home countries.
“Hearing from such a variety of speakers really inspired me,” says Jemima, who completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) at Lincoln University last year and works as a graduate accountant in an agribusiness team. “It confirmed what a great choice I made when I chose to study agriculture at university. It’s an industry with a lot of meaning – we help feed people.”
Beth, who finished a degree in Agribusiness and Environmental Science at Waikato University earlier this year and now works as a science research assistant, says it was invaluable to connect with such a diverse group of people.
“It was a chance to hear about each other’s experiences, and to debate issues from very different perspectives.”
Jemima enjoyed contributing to the summit as one of only a few delegates who’d worked on farms.
"Most of the other young people there were studying at a Master's level, and many had not even been on a farm. For my group's breakout session topic I was able to bring a practical understanding of what farmers need when implementing new technology."
For Beth, taking part in the summit confirmed the fundamental importance of agriculture.
“Despite the world’s increasing move to a more plantbased diet, everyone at the summit acknowledged that animal agriculture will still be important.”
Jemima says summit discussions made it clear there are real similarities between New Zealand and other developed countries. “The issues affecting New Zealand agriculture are not unique to us. Other countries are facing the same public pressure in terms of the environment and animal welfare.
“High land prices in relation to agricultural returns are also a global issue, which is putting many young people off going farming. We need to change the mindset which says you have to own land to go farming. Farming is not about owning land – today it is increasingly about running a highly demanding business.”
Beth says the summit made her more aware of how New Zealand differs to other countries.
“For delegates from developing countries, their societies’ connection to agriculture is much closer than New Zealand’s; there’s not as much distance between the producer and consumer for things to get ‘lost in translation’. In New Zealand, the dairy sector is increasingly aware of consumer and public perception, so there’s a growing need for effective and proactive communication.”
Jemima received her DairyNZ scholarship from 2014 to 2016, while Beth received hers from 2016 to 2017. They, and the more than 300 other DairyNZ scholars, are our sector's future ambassadors and leaders. Learn more at dairynz.co.nz/scholarships
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy December 2017