Thursday, 09 May 2019 08:03

Forget the Avengers, farmers are the real heroes

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Marc Oostdijk. Marc Oostdijk.

Farmers are the world’s real superheroes, says Rabobank executive Marc Oostdijk.

Launching Rabobank’s recent FoodX programme, which aims to introduce high school students to career paths in the food industry, Oostdijk says world population is expected to reach 9 or 10 billion by 2050.

“That’s massive, and to grow food and fibres for them is a massive challenge.”

About 30 year 12 and 13 students from a dozen urban Canterbury high schools attended the four-day programme organised by Rabobank’s Canterbury Client Council with Lincoln University.

The students were introduced to all facets of primary industry -- animals, food production, marketing, agribusiness and science. Activities included visits to producers, including dairy and high-country deer farms, and processors including Synlait, Hellers and the Three Boys boutique brewery in Christchurch.

Oostdijk is Rabobank’s Sydney-based general manager of knowledge, networks sustainability and community engagement for New Zealand and Australia. He says the bank’s client councils, which meet regularly to discuss the challenges facing the agricultural sector, are an important way for it to understand what is relevant to rural industries and communities.

He says the number-one concern is always how to make sure there is enough young talent going into the industry.

Rabobank client councils run a similar agri-leadership programme for year 12 and 13 students in Waikato, and in Australia it places students and secondary school teachers on farms for week-long visits.

“This is a space we love to be active in,” Oostdijk told Rural News. “Food is what drives us, fibre is what drives us.”

Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith told the opening that she grew up as a city girl but wished she had known then what opportunities existed in the agricultural sector.

She says success for young people in the rural sector could mean many different things for different people – a degree from Lincoln, rural banking, farm ownership and food production.

“We want to be able to excite young people and then connect them with the options available to them in the agricultural sector.”

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