The Best of Both Worlds.
Solutions and Development Specialist Kieran McCahon is preparing for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition.
There was a point in time where 25-year-old Kieran McCahon wanted nothing more than to be a goat farmer. Unluckily for the goat industry, his career path went in another direction.
“Growing up, I was quite a small lad. My first day of school happened to be pet day, and I’d reared a goat to take along from that day on, and for a long time, I wanted to be a goat farmer. Although that didn’t quite pan out, many of those early memories ended up influencing my ultimate career decisions”.
Growing up on a 760ha property on the West Coast was like growing up on one big playground for McCahon. He says he had fond memories of helping his parents out on farm and spending lots of time with extended family.
McCahon says that his parents always encouraged their children to try other things and explore different career pathways outside of farming.
“They wanted us to get a good education and find something that we truly loved. There would always be plenty of opportunities within agriculture if we wanted to head that way, but they encouraged us to explore and cast our net wide”.
As a highly academic person, McCahon settled on civil engineering and studied subjects to help get them there. It wasn’t until a university open day that he learned more about the industry and had second thoughts.
“I think I was influenced by, to an extend by expectation, a feeling that if you were smart, you were going to study engineering or medicine. The open day opened my eyes to what was involved, and it didn’t feel like a good fit. I started looking at other options''.
With his sister heading off to Lincoln University, McCahon took a closer look at agricultural studies. While going to the same university as his sister wasn’t over appealing to either party, Massey University felt like a good fit and was a bit of a family tradition.
“Mum and dad both went to Massey, so there's a family link. During that time, I think I realised that I wanted the lifestyle aspect of farming. Still, more than that, I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to an industry that is hugely important to the country. I sometimes think I took my rural background for granted, but sometimes you need to explore all avenues before you end up where you're meant to be”.
With an agriscience degree under his belt, McCahon went on to complete a Masters degree through a DairyNZ scholarship which eventually paved the way to a full-time job within the company.
Now working as a Solutions and Development Specialist, McCahon says he’s the link between science and extension. Neither a researcher nor a consulting offer, but enjoying the best of both worlds.
A large portion of his job is taking research and new knowledge and helping to translate that into a form that can be used on-farm in the form of tools and resources.
“It’s a really varied role that covers everything from farm systems through to environment benchmarking. I help develop resources and occasionally write the odd scientific publication or presentation. It’s been an amazing job so far”.
Looking to the future, McCahon says he’d like to strike a nice balance between on-farm and off-farm roles. Having recently moved back to Northland to be closer to the family farm, he has the opportunity to be more involved in practical farming. He also has a strong desire to have a wider impact beyond the farm gate.
“I realise that I’m in a really privileged position to be deciding between getting started on a journey towards farm ownership or getting more involved in the science and research side of the industry. It’s a great position to be in, and I think it speaks volumes for the variety this industry offers.
For me, it's a hard one. I want to be involved on-farm but I also like working in the research field. Ultimately I’d like to find a balance between the two. I originally got into agriculture because I loved the lifestyle that I was provided as a child, and it’s something I’d like to offer my own family one day”.
Throughout his academic and career journey, McCahon has been an active member of Young Farmers clubs. They’ve been the way through which he’s made friends in new places and kept his toe in the waters of the practical side of farming.
“I’m a bit of a desk jockey most of the time, so Young Farmers has been a great way to make sure I can still do all those practical things.
More than that though, it’s friendships and opportunities. I’ve been involved in convening regional finals for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition before and done practical days with my club. You make so many connections that will stay with you for life”.
First encouraged by David Kidd to enter the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition, McCahon is looking forward to giving the grand finals his best shot and not letting the hiccups of previous competitions influence him again.
“At regionals one year, I massively overthought a fencing module which hurt me points-wise, I know that I have a tendency to do that, so going into this grand final, I’m just focused on looking at the bigger picture and taking things slow and methodical.
“I’m up against some seasoned professionals, but we all have different strengths and weaknesses, so anyone could snatch the win. I’ll be going out there and giving it my all”.