The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Young Farmers region is launching an alumni for past members at a celebratory dinner in February and also resurrecting a trophy that honours a former president who lost his life in a selfless act of compassion.
Co-organiser and the region’s NZ Young Farmers Field Officer Casey Huffstutler says there were some incredible stories among past members that needed to be shared and reminisced over and this will be an opportunity to do so.
NZ Young Farmers Field Officer Casey Huffstutler researching some of the history of the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Young Farmers Clubs.
“NZ Young Farmers has produced many great primary industry leaders and has a huge impact on young people’s lives and our region is no different. This event is a chance for us to thank those who began it all and to hear just how important the organisation was to their development.”
Casey will award the Allan Smith Memorial Cup for the first time in many years as part of the launch, together with its first recipient, 79-year-old Robert Maxted at the Don Rowlands Centre at Karapiro on Saturday February 11.
For Robert being awarded the Waipa District trophy for Leadership and Citizenship in 1969 was one of the most special moments of his life.
“It was a very prestigious award and I was very honoured and humbled to receive it.”
However, the trophy had a tragic inception because it commemorated a shocking moment in time that shook Young Farmers members to the core.
In 1963 the then National Federation President of NZ Young Farmers and proud South Auckland Council member, Allan Smith, went with his family to a picnic on the beach at Kawhia Beach when a young girl got into trouble in the sea.
In a selfless act of compassion, Allan jumped up and ran into the sea to rescue her. Fortunately, for the little girl, the next wave picked her up and dumped her onshore safe and sound, but tragically, Allan never came back and his body was never found.
In his honour, the Waipa District introduced the Allan Smith Memorial trophy in memory of the young leader, who, according to the trophys’ inscription, by diligence and exemplary service rose to the highest office of Dominion President.
Casey says it is sure to be an emotional moment when the trophy is awarded to a current Young Farmer member.
“Allan stood for everything we value in the organisation – that selfless desire to help others and it’s still the core of our region today with members raising large sums of money to give back to the community every year as well as donating voluntary time to a number of projects.”
A founding member of the Pukeatua Arohena Club, Robert says Young Farmers played a vital role in his life and he attributes the many skills he learnt there with helping him own a business later in life.
“We did all sorts of things. We learnt how to run a meeting and how to talk in public. We did stock-judging competitions and learnt maintenance and safety around equipment.”
The 79-year-old made lifelong friends through the organisation and two years ago his old club mates got together with him to talk over old times including how Young Farmers was formed.
Beginning in 1932 as a male-only organisation, and with help from the Department of Agriculture, hundreds of clubs eventually sprouted around New Zealand. Initially members gathered to hear guest speakers who were knowledgeable about farming but as time progressed, the social component of the organisation grew to be equally as important.
Historically the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region played a significant part in the organisation with the region having the first two Maori Young Farmer Clubs.
Starting in 1949 the Rangataua Club at Papamoa was formed with 22 Maori members and the effect was immense, with reports showing farm management skills among members rose substantially leading to a second Maori club being formed at Matakana Island.
During those 50 years members were front line to events that shaped New Zealanders today including the Second World War where many clubs went into recess with so few young men left at home. By 1945 one third of all men who went to war were young farming men – leaving a huge vacuum in rural communities and substantial social change.
However, through all history’s trials the organisation continues to thrive, says Casey.
“There will always be an important place for NZ Young Farmers in our communities. While it’s a time to look back at how far we’ve come, it’s also a time to celebrate the integral role we play today.”
Taking place at the Don Rowlands Centre at Karapiro on Saturday February 11 at 5pm, the Alumni launch will be held in conjunction with the Region’s annual Chairman’s Awards. Tickets cost $50, including dinner and can be purchased online at firstname.lastname@example.org