Olivia Buick heads the country’s largest TeenAg club and is determined to pursue a career in the agri-food sector.
The 17-year-old is in her final year at Feilding High School, which operates two farms to help grow students’ skills.
“The dairy farm has a robotic milking machine and is only 16 hectares. The sheep and beef block is five times the size,” she said.
“The dairy farm has 60 cows and is run as a split-calving system, so there are cows milking year-round.”
Feilding High School was the first school in the southern hemisphere to get robotic milking technology.
Students are taught how to operate the equipment, allocate feed, plus shear a sheep, drench livestock and erect a fence.
The farms are run in conjunction with the school’s well-regarded agriculture programme.
“It’s awesome. The farms allow us to apply the theory we have learned in class, which is often quite helpful,” said Olivia.
The school’s thriving TeenAg club has more than 130 members, making it the largest in New Zealand.
“A lot of our club members live in town,” said Olivia.
“Students often join after developing a keen interest in the primary industries when they study agriculture as a subject in Year 9.”
The club organises agri-sports days and brings in inspiring guest speakers to talk about career opportunities in the sector.
“Our club is really student-driven,” said Olivia.
It also encourages students to enter the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition.
This year half of the teams competing in the Taranaki/Manawatū regional final in Whanganui were from Feilding High School.
The school took out the top three places.
Anna Simpson, 16, and Phoebe Smailes, 16, won the hotly-contested event.
“We’re stoked. We came third last year, so we’re really excited to have taken out first place this year,” said Anna.
More than 50 high school students from across the region worked in pairs to tackle a range of challenges.
The modules tested the students’ practical and theoretical skills, and included a fast-paced quiz hosted by Te Radar.
“I enjoyed the module on macroinvertebrates, and using the New Holland tractor fitted with automated steering technology,” said Anna.
Olivia Buick and Nelson Greenwood, 16, took out second place.
Both teams have qualified for the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Hawke’s Bay in July.
“We were gutted to have just missed out last year, so we’re pretty proud to have qualified this year,” said Phoebe.
It will be Olivia’s second time competing at a grand final.
“The atmosphere was amazing. I learned so much competing in Invercargill and I made heaps of new contacts,” she said.
Olivia is in Year 13 and plans to study a Bachelor of Agriculture (Commerce) at Lincoln University next year.