Embracing the Challenge.
Sharemilker Sam Hodsell is gearing up to compete in this year’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Christchurch. It’s a bit outside of his comfort zone, but he’s embracing it.
28-year-old Sam Hodsell says that one of the best parts of Young Farmers is the sense of community, which has helped him get through some challenging times in his life.
“It’s a real community, everyone helps each other out during tough times, and there is always someone to talk to. There’s certainly been times in my life where I’ve leaned on the mates I’ve made through the club. Having that support is huge when you work in an industry that is high stress and long hours".
Growing up in a farming family, there was little doubt in Hodsells mind of what his path in life would be.
“I was always going to be a farmer. I never wanted to do anything else.”
After high school, he headed to Lincoln University to study a Bachelor of AgriCommerce, which was a massive decision for him.
“It was a bit of a toss-up between going to university or not and then which university I wanted to go to. I talked to a lot of people, but ultimately Lincoln was that bit closer to home. Looking back, I’m really glad I went there. It was a fantastic experience.
“I don’t know if I’d still be farming if I had started straight out of school. The people I met, the skills and knowledge I gained, it’s all invaluable when you’re out there doing it.”
Post-university, Hodsell skipped the country for a six-week OE before getting started on his progression towards farm ownership. He first took up a job managing a 600-cow farm out of Darfield before going back to the family farm as manager and eventually contract milker.
“Somewhere along the way, I started to burn out. I was working too hard for too many hours with too few staff. I became a bit overfocused on my end goal, and I think I wasn’t even trying to get a good work-life balance going, something I know now is really important for longevity”.
Around the same time, Hodsell had the opportunity to take up the 50/50 sharemilking role on the family farm. The three-year contract was appealing, but he felt he needed some time to recalibrate before he took that next step in his career. He headed over the ditch to do some tractor driving.
“I realised as a single guy in my 20’s it was probably my last chance to get out to do something I really wanted to do. Driving tractors had always been on my to-do list, my brother had done it, the money was appealing, and I needed something different”.
In Australia, Hodsell worked on a sheep, beef and cropping farm, and stints in agricultural contracting and harvesting.
“The size of the operations over there is something we just don’t have here in New Zealand, so I’m grateful that I took up that opportunity. It’s hard work, and you’re in charge of some pretty large, expensive machines, but it’s all experience, some of which I’m sure has helped me in the competition”.
Along with his partner Jenna, Hodsell is now 50/50 sharemilking on the family farm. He says he’s much more conscious of the need to strike some kind of balance in life and get off-farm at times.
“Delegation is a big thing for me now, especially since I’ve got staff. I try to empower people, so instead of going out and fixing their mistakes, I try to help guide them through how to do it properly and teaching them.
“It’s important to remember that farming is a long game. You can’t get hung up on the short term things. As a young person, you’re often motivated and don’t tend to look too far ahead. As you get older, you realise you have to. You also realise you have to take breaks and relax. Lifes not all about work.”
The 250ha property in Thornbury is preparing up for winter right now, with most of the herd dried off or on once-a-day milking. Youngstock are transitioning onto fodder beet for the winter. Hodsell is taking this ‘quiet time’ to kick his grand final preparations into high gear and will be calling on his Young Farmer mates for support and picking their brains.
Having first competed in 2016, this is Hodsells first time at the grand finals. While it was always a goal at every competition, he underestimated how much work is involved.
“I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. This experience is pushing me out of my comfort zone. I know it will be good in the long term, but I am starting to feel it a little bit!
“I think my biggest hurdle will be the mental game. It comes back to getting good sleep and doing all you can to prepare. I’ve been going to Toastmasters to get used to pushing myself out of my comfort zone.”