James Stewart is the man with the plan, and as the new Federated Farmers’ Manawatu-Rangitikei Provincial President he is determined to lead his community and get New Zealanders back in touch with their farming roots.
“I was tapped on the shoulder,” laughs James when discussing his selection as Federated Farmers’ newest Provincial President. “I’ve always been very passionate about the agricultural sector, having been a farmer my whole life. I was brought up on a farm, and had been in my own business for about twenty years when I got to the point where I had a little bit more time to get out in the wider industry, rather than just being on a farm.”
This wealth of experience more than proved that he was fit for the job, and James is now one of the youngest elected presidents to date, a representative of the younger generation of farmers who are now coming into their own. “The biggest qualification I need is to be a real farmer, and know the issues for farmers and represent them.”
I’ve got the best air conditioning in the country. When I talk about my office I’m talking about my farm. My office is green paddocks and a wide, open sky
James is not one to leave things up to others, and already he is making his own mark on how things are done. “When I took on this role I think my big catchphrase was engagement. I want to engage with my farmers, so that farmers get real value from what we are doing. Farmers want to farm the land and the stock. That’s why they wanted to farm. They don’t want to deal with the political stuff. That’s what we are trying to help with. We are the voice of farmers.”
Even more vital than interacting with farmers is James’ driving focus on reuniting the rural and urban communities. “I enjoy talking to urban people, going to town groups, schools, Lions Clubs, Probus. Just getting out and talking, and sharing our story, what we are doing in New Zealand and the challenges we have.
“Our country has become very urbanised; only about fourteen per cent of the population are living rurally. People are seeing less and less of farms. What I want to do is give them the chance and that’s part of the Manawatu Farm Days we are launching. Open the gate. Come and have a look. If people don’t understand what we are doing we have to show them.”
I want to engage with my farmers, so that farmers get real value from what we are doing. Farmers want to farm the land and the stock
He is also hoping to encourage other young farmers, and help those considering this field of work understand the work that is involved on a farm. “One day you can be a vet, other days you’re a plumber, and some days you’re an accountant running a business. There are a lot of different challenges that give a lot of variety.
“Farming has always been a bit of a lifestyle and that’s what probably got me into it, the lifestyle it encompasses. I’ve often said, ‘I’ve got the best air conditioning in the country.’ When I talk about my office I’m talking about my farm. My office is green paddocks and a wide, open sky. You’ve got plenty of room and space, fresh air. There is nothing better getting up in the morning and watching the sun come up. It’s just great to be out and free.”