On Saturday 2nd April, ACG Strathallan alumna Annaliese Goettler will pit her skills against some of the northern area's most promising young farmers, with hopes of taking out the top spot in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regional Final. If successful, she'll go head-to-head again in July, battling it out for the Grand National title.
We talk with Annaliese about the competition and the amazing opportunities the agricultural industry has offered her.
Tell us about FMG Young Farmer of the Year.
The region final competition takes place over a couple of days. There's a written exam, a practical day consisting of individual modules and farmlets, and two practical challenges where all competitors do the same activity against the clock simultaneously. There could be a wide range of skills tested from any sector within the agriculture industry, but that's kept top secret until the day. The event concludes with an agri-knowledge quiz.
What inspired you to enter?
I've entered several times, purely to learn new skills. I've also been on organising committees for the competitions since 2016, including being the region final convenor in 2021. I've put a lot into this competition over the years and am proud to have qualified for this year's regionals. I've attended the Grand Final three times as a spectator and am always amazed by the quality and skill of young people in our industry.
Have you won any other awards?
In 2017 I won the National Royal Agricultural Society Rural Ambassador Competition, which gave me the chance to represent New Zealand at the Royal Adelaide Show in 2018, and in 2016 I won the Tom Cranswick Memorial Award from Farmlands which provided financial aid towards my tertiary study.
What tertiary study did you complete after graduating from ACG Strathallan in 2013?
I started at Lincoln University doing a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) but transferred to the University of Waikato, where I studied a Bachelor of Management Studies majoring in Agribusiness. This was a four-year degree, but I was offered a marketing/product management job at AgriHealth NZ after my third year, so I completed my last year part-time. At the end of 2020, I started a Diploma in Science and Technology through Massey University to broaden my technical knowledge of animals, plants and soils. I've also completed industry short courses in sustainable nutrient management.
Did you always want to work in agriculture?
I come from a family that's been in the primary sector for many generations, and my parents have been dry stock and poultry farmers my entire life, and more recently added a dairy farm to the mix. So I was brought up rurally and loved it! I don't remember what I wanted to do as a child, but as a teenager, I became more aware of the importance of our industry. For my IGSCE Global Perspectives course in Year 10, I interviewed Sir Henry van der Heyden, who was the chairman of Fonterra at the time. I was amazed by some of the statistics of the dairy industry and its importance to our country. From then I was definitely on the pathway to an agriculture career.
Currently, you're Environmental, Administration and Compliance Officer for Brookdale Ltd, your family-owned and operated mixed farming business. Tell us more.
We have dairy, poultry and beef animals. My role is varied – I do all the bookkeeping and general accounts, but depending on the time of year, you might also find me feeding out to dry stock and fixing fences. In addition, I manage our farm's overseer files, run on-farm health and safety meetings, and continuously improve our farm health systems. I also purchased my own block of land with my fiancé in 2020, so I manage the sheep and cattle on that as well.
You also have some governance roles?
Yes, I'm an Auckland Federated Farmers' Executive Committee member, an Auckland Council Rural Advisory Panel member, and recently completed a term as Franklin A&P Society Junior Vice-Chair and Equestrian Chief Steward.
What do you love most about the industry?
So many things! I enjoy that our industry is vital for the health and wellbeing of our population, I enjoy spending my days surrounded by animals and beautiful scenery, and I enjoy that the industry is constantly evolving and there's so much innovation happening.
What are the challenges?
The ever-changing legislation, and the rate at which it's coming, is challenging for farmers. We have to adapt faster than ever before. There are also so many variables that we can't control, like the weather and international markets.
Why is agriculture such an important sector to be involved in?
We're doing one of the most important jobs, creating high-quality food for millions of people around the world.
What did you take away from your years at ACG Strathallan?
The culture at Strathallan pushes you to set your goals high and empowers you to achieve them. The teachers let you take charge of your own learning and help you develop the skills to get you there. ACG Strathallan gave me a great grounding in time management – I never had any issues completing assessments on time or managing my course work. And this foundation made my transition into university very smooth.
Any advice for those keen to get into the agriculture industry?
Absorb as much information as you can. Get to know people in the industry and surround yourself with those who want to see you thrive. Ask questions, find a mentor and write a career plan, but do it in pencil so you can change it. Jump on every opportunity – they will snowball. There are also heaps of scholarships available, so take the opportunity to reduce your student loan.