Nigel Woodhead launches new vision for agriculture, food and fibres sector

Posted by on 13 December 2019 | Comments

A former FMG Young Farmer of the Year has been a vital part of creating the new vision for the Agriculture, Food and Fibre Sector.

Nigel Woodhead is a member of the Primary Sector Council and also runs a 400ha sheep and beef farm running 3,500 stock units in Otago.

On Thursday the Primary Sector Council, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor, unveiled ‘Fit For a Better World’.

The vision is for our agriculture, food and fibres sector to be a world leader in modern regenerative production systems and provide the world’s consumers with ethically produced food, natural fibres, drinks, co-products and bio products.

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Young Farmers member and ECan Councillor Megan Hands, Nigel Woodhead and NZ Young Farmers Board Chair Ash-Leigh Campbell at the Primary Sector Council vision launch

Nigel was asked to be an observer member of the council after winning FMG Young Farmer of the Year in 2017.

He says he was intrigued, so decided to become a part of it, to put in his input, listen and learn.

12 months in, he was asked to become a full member with voting rights, which he accepted.

“Someone has to step up and fight the good fight,” he says.

Being involved in the discussion, he also felt like he had a lot to contribute.

“I am the only person on this Primary Sector Council who gets up every day and puts boots on, everyone else gets up and puts shiny shoes on. That’s not a criticism of them, that’s just the reality, I’m the only farmer,” he says.

“I had an obligation on behalf of the industry to be there on behalf of those of us who get up and put boots on every day and have dirt under our nails, and those of us under 40.”

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Nigel says there were some serious and vigorous debates around the table, with everyone having expertise in different areas.

“I learnt a ridiculous amount about all sorts of stuff involving international and New Zealand agriculture and agricultural trade, business management, change management, human behaviour and the list goes on,” he says.

Being involved in the process over the last few years also means his network has exploded.

Everyone involved in the discussion, he now calls a friend and says he would ring them to ask for anything.

“The more time I spent around the table, the more I grew to respect the people who sat around that table with me and the more respect I think I gained from them,” he says.

 Nigel says he is 100% proud of the vision they have created.

“This is huge, this is a turning point for NZ agriculture and our food and fibre sector”.

He says the vision allows farmers, growers, crafters and makers, the flexibility of how they want to operate and gives people a purpose. 

“It’s not a dictation of ‘this is how you will operate and this is how you will act’, it gives the ability for each individual to say this is what X,Y,Z means for me and this is what I’m going to do about it.”

Most farmers will look at it, relate to it and say they’re already ticking most of the boxes, he says.

His hope is that it will challenge people to go further in a positive sense, not because they have to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

He also thinks Young Farmers in the industry, have a huge role to play with the average age of NZ farmers increasing.

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“As young people in the industry we just need to back ourselves and say we’re doing the right thing because it’s right and get stuck in and do the hard work because the future is so bright and I’m 100% positive for where we’re going to go.”

As guardians of the land, he says we’re all in charge of looking after the scenery and landscape as well as feeding and clothing people.

“I believe in the future we will be valued beyond belief because of the role we play in humanity, we feed people, we clothe people, and we produce the timber to build their houses. Such a tiny number of people look after such a huge part of the countryside in every country, especially New Zealand”.

The Primary Sector Council is developing its final report with recommendations, expected in March 2020. A new government-industry partnership – Food and Fibres Aotearoa New Zealand – has been established, to bring the vision to life.