Jill Galloway talks to a young shepherd who loves the variety and challenges of the job. Photo: Brad Hanson
Charlotte Nimmo had no training to be a shepherd, but it is a job she loves.
“I have no trouble getting out of bed each day to start work.”
The 20-year-old is working on Mary and Justin Vennell’s 513-hectare farm at Rewa, north of Fielding.
They run sheep and beef cattle and have a 77ha forestry block. The Vennells featured in Country-Wide September, this year.
Justin says half Charlotte’s wages come from doing extra things on the farm, and the other half, through being able to farm more intensively.
They traded more than 1000 lambs earlier this year, which Justin had not done before.
“It is great to be able to look at the opportunities and know labour is not the restraint it has been in the past.”
While he had coped by himself for a few years, he likes having a farm worker and could do more as a result.
“I liked her for the job, because she wasn’t green (having worked on other farms) but she was mouldable enough to teach her my bad habits,” he laughs.
But Justin saw something he liked in Charlotte.
“She was young and keen, and I like to see young people doing well.”
He says he also knew the Nimmo family and knew they were hard workers.
The Vennells are previous supreme winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the Manawatu and Wanganui regions. Charlotte likes the variety the job throws at her and learning opportunities the farm brings.
She says the farm has good infrastructure which helped attract her to the job, which started in March this year.
She gets on well with Justin and says he doesn’t just delegate but explains why things are being done.
It was her first fulltime job – before that she had worked part-time on farms and she enjoys helping to relieve pressure.
“It is nice to spend more time off farm and know the farm work is going on,” Justin says.
He and Mary have three children, with two older ones boarding at Charlotte’s old school, Feilding High School, while the younger child is still at Hunterville primary school.
Justin is chairman of the board of trustees for the Hunterville school.
He says that takes him off the farm, and he and Mary want to spend as much time as they can with the children.
Charlotte says her favourite job is mustering stock and with five dogs and central races, it can go well.
“It is great when it goes well, but sometimes it doesn’t.”
She has three dogs, with two pups coming on. There are two Huntaways and three heading dogs.
“Day-to-day I do stock work, shift breaks and then it is maintenance, mainly fencing. When you have stock, you need good fences.”
Charlotte blames her parents for her farming career. They moved from Wanganui to Hunterville and that was when farming became an option.
While she says she didn’t know what she wanted to be as a young Feilding High School student.
“I had no idea I was going to become a shepherd, but I loved people and the agricultural classes as well as working on the school farm.”
By the time she was a senior, she knew she wanted to go sheep and beef farming.
She left school in part way through Year 13 to go and help on a farm. They owners had just found out about a pregnancy. “They also said I could have a dog.”
Her senior student education was the beginning of her love affair with sheep and beef farming.
Despite having no qualifications, Charlotte is well known in some farming circles, she has a good reputation as a hard worker, and not having qualifications has not held her back.
Charlotte says she started some AgITO study, but found it hard going with work commitments and gave up study to cope.
The career is not a 9 to 5 lifestyle.
“You have to give to get.”
But if she wants a day off during the week, she is happy to work the weekend.