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Overseas agriculture adventures

Overseas agriculture adventures

A keen young lad, Courtney Goodare is a bit of an adventure-seeker. Landing an Agriventure New Zealand travel scholarship on a friend’s recommendation in 2013 he headed to the United Kingdom for a change of scenery. Sam Tennent reports.

Courtney Goodare always knew he wanted to be a farmer. Growing up on his grandparents’ 12-hectare “hobby farm” close to town he would always be out doing odd jobs after school and on weekends so the 25-year-old always associated farming with home time and holidays.

Holidays were also spent with his uncle who worked on Landcorp’s Raurimu Station in National Park. While still in school he looked at building and architecture but during Year 13 his cousin married a dairy farmer, Vaughan, who suggested Courtney come and work with him. Despite being half way through his last year at school, Courtney grabbed the opportunity and moved to the 300-cow farm Vaughan managed in Kio Kio, just north of Otorohanga.

“It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”

That first season wasn’t smooth sailing. Courtney put penicillin in the vat three times and managed to completely miss a milking once! He had been to a friend’s 18th birthday party, getting home 20 minutes before being due to work. He set three alarms, slept through them all and woke at 8:30am. On this particular morning there was a scheduled power cut at 9am and since it was a one-man shed Courtney was the only one onfarm.

Vaughan now oversees three farms in Mangakino.

“I really owe him a lot. He is a very good manager and he taught me heaps although I can’t have been the easiest student. It got to the point where if Vaughan started ringing me I would be running through my head what I could’ve done wrong, expecting a bollocking.”

After two years with Vaughan he headed on to a 600-cow dairy farm east of Te Awamutu as the 2IC with a considerably improved work ethic, knowledge and skill. After two years, an opportunity arose for him to step into a manager’s role, which he admits he didn’t appreciate enough at the time.

He says he lacked the staff-management skills this role required and lacked confidence in himself. So after six months it was a mutual decision with the owner for Courtney to move on to Ngahinapouri as a 2IC again for a short stint before heading to the United Kingdom.

The Agriventure New Zealand scholarship he won covered most of the cost of a six-month working holiday, valued at NZ$7500. Courtney paid $2500 and was provided with flights, a visa, and a host family to live and work with, along with support and a network of other scholarship recipients on working holidays.

In July 2013 he headed away and his first stop was Kent in southeast England. The owner of the beef farm was a widower who had been raising his three children alone for the past decade.

“He was a very switched-on guy, but his father had passed away recently and it just wasn’t the best timing for him to have me there.”

Courtney left halfway through the six-month scholarship and spent a month in Manchester with his uncle while Agriventure found a new host farm.

His uncle worked for a recruitment company hiring offshore oil-rig workers. Courtney picked up a role with the British Heart Foundation going door-to-door to sign people up for the charity. He has mixed memories of this experience but it kept him occupied and he gave the money he earned to his uncle for letting him stay.

“It was a weird concept to get your head around; although it was a charity I was on a commission so if you were good there was an opportunity to earn a fair bit of money.”

Luckily, Agriventure found another suitable placement in Devon with the well-known Persey family on their dairy farm that had sheep, beef, pigs, turkeys and a pub. The pub was owned with and run by the eldest son, Ashley, who also ran an outdoor catering business and was very busy over summer.

“The family were good at human trafficking Agriventure students.”

Jill and Richard Persey took Courtney in as one of their own. Jill had been to NZ on Agriventure and all the children had travelled the world. Richard hated flying and was very involved in the farm but Courtney impressed him sufficiently that it was the first time Richard stepped back to let someone else milk.

An initiative Courtney set up when he first got to the farm was to milk at regular times, 6am and 4pm, and because of this production went up. Milking times had been erratic because Richard had an ongoing ankle injury – he just was not physically able to keep to the farming routines. Courtney feels his presence was morale-boosting and he helped keep the little things in line.

“It was like his ankle was rolled and he basically walked on the side of his foot – he would just keep trucking on. Farmers seem to hate doctors no matter what country you’re in.”

When one of the four Persey children, Laura, died nine years ago the family set up the Laura Persey Trust in her memory. The trust provides scholarships for people undergoing training or self-improvement in agriculture and home-making.

The family fundraise, getting grants and sponsorship to keep the trust going. The trust put Courtney through a herdsman course, which he described as being like Primary ITO in NZ, with six-weekly classes run by the local vets.

Courtney says farming is very much a family business in the United Kingdom, where knowledge is passed through the family.

“The father teaches the son and they do things the same way for a long time.

“The course I completed gets the vets’ knowledge out there; they taught you if you look after your animals they’ll look after you in return very well.”

On the Persey farm Courtney was milking in an eight-abreast walk-through dairy.

There was no kick-bar and the milker had to stand between two big Holstein-Friesian cows. He said he got kicked a lot but learnt to position himself to avoid the worst of it. A door in front of the cow was opened to let her out once she was finished milking. Milking 100 cows took two-and-a-half hours twice a day.

During his time onfarm the family was planning a new dairy and asked for Courtney’s input.

“They had done their research, though, so I couldn’t help a lot.”

The plan was to build a 14-aside herringbone with two rows of cups, a popular design in the UK. The base pad and foundations were completed before Courtney left and Richard and his sons were going to build the dairy.

“It is a very exciting time in the UK at the moment. The older generation who are farming know they could be doing it better and the children are returning home after travel with worldly knowledge on how to change things.

“There’s a lot of development so it’ll be interesting to see England in 20 years.”

Courtney’s Agriventure finished after three months but he asked if he could stay on. The Perseys were pleased, providing free room and board and paying him £200 a week.

Courtney arrived home in March 2015 after 16 months in the UK having made a lot of friends, visited the French Alps and acted in a pantomime – an interactive Christmas play, a very English tradition of 300 years.

Get involved in as much as you can – it all adds to the experience.

Lessons learned

  • The importance of looking after my own future.
  • Anything can be fixed with bailing twine!
  • Farming is almost a hobby in the UK.
  • New Zealand is very young. We don’t have centuries of history to contend with when considering making changes.
  • Picking up a girl is very hard. Young people still live with mum and dad.
  • The communities are very tight-knit. You feel like you’re a part of one great big family within a half-hour drive.