3 August 2020
It’s all about the people for Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) regional coordinator Jessie Waite who has been appointed to the New Zealand Young Farmers national board.
The 28-year old has been with the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust since 2018, helping us organise the annual BFEA season, balancing this work with her part-time role at Federated Farmers – amongst other things.
“I love being busy, it’s great to be involved in things – however it’s all about balance. You can keep busy but it’s important to take time out for yourself.”
Finding work-life balance is a philosophy she’s pleased to see is now being talked about in the rural sector, with an increasing focus on the mental health of farmers. Indeed, it’s Jessie’s caring nature that attracted her to the Trust and Young Farmers roles in the first place.
“We have so many amazing people in the primary sector – many of them working to improve their environments – and I love encouraging them to tell their story by getting involved in the awards,” she says.
“Before we can expect others to be proud of the food and fibre we’re producing, our farmers need to be showing that they’re proud of it too. Our farmers have such fantastic stories but – because they’re out there doing the work day-to-day – they don’t often sit back and see the wow factor of what they’ve achieved. Entering the awards is a chance for them to reflect on the great work they’re doing. And then with Federated Farmers, I’m able to support farmers in the advocacy space.”
One of Jessie’s most rewarding moments was in 2018 when Taranaki was experiencing a drought and she helped Federated Farmers set up a feed drive to encourage farmers from other regions to donate feed.
“It was humbling to get phone calls from farmers as far away as Oamaru who were donating feed. And it was really neat to be able to help our farmers when they were going through such a hard time.”
Jessie originally got involved with the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust by joining the Taranaki BFEA committee, then putting up her hand when the regional coordinator position became available. Similarly, she was involved with Young Farmers for about eight years before being nominated to the national board. She has a top tip for other young people wanting to rise through the ranks of organisations such as these.
“I’d strongly recommend finding a mentor – either formally or informally. There’s probably someone you look up to who are in groups or roles you aspire to – ask them questions and pick their brains. I’ve found that in the rural industry there are so many people who are willing to help and give advice.
“It’s good to remember that people aren’t born with leadership skills – it takes time to learn them. So have confidence in yourself, and take and create opportunities to learn – including approaching people to be your mentor.”
"Before we can expect others to be proud of the food and fibre we’re producing, our farmers need to be showing that they’re proud of it too."