New Zealand farming trip for 100th learner

Young Farmer Fern Bowen has just jetted off to New Zealand, becoming the 100th recipient of a unique scholarship improving the knowledge of young farmers in the UK.

The C. Alma Baker Trust Travel Award works with the National Federation of Young Farmers Club’s Discovery programme to select four YFC travellers a year to work at Limestone Downs, a 7,954-acre farm on New Zealand’s North Island.

Fern will be working there for three months, helping to look after the 20,000 sheep and 2,500 cattle.

“At home I feed, inoculate and shear the flock, but I’m really keen to learn new methods in New Zealand,” says Fern, who is from a 450-acre farm in Glamorgan.

It has been in the family for two generations and Fern hopes to pick up some tips by studying the farming techniques in her host country.

“It is really important that I can explore other farming methods, as I intend to be the third generation of my family to farm this land. Two years ago we started breeding Easy Care sheep, and I know farming systems in New Zealand are easy care-orientated. I’m also keen to study seed mixtures and the better use of clover to reduce our fertiliser costs.”

She adds that her involvement with YFC has taught her many of the skills she will now be able to use on her trip.

“I’ve been a YFC member for 11 years and I’ve competed in every competition I could, from public speaking to sheep shearing. At home I select lambs for market, using the skills I learnt through stock judging competitions.”

The first young farmer selected under this scheme was J. David Powell, who travelled to Limestone Downs in January 1987. The farm was purchased by rubber and tin magnate Charles Alma Baker in 1926 and, since his death, has been managed by the Trust and is used for research into agricultural development.

As well as developing her agricultural knowledge, Fern is also eager to pursue another of her passions. The keen artist, with a first-class degree in fine art, hopes the New Zealand landscape will provide fresh inspiration for her projects.

“My work is a direct response to agriculture and my experience of it – I think this trip will also help me develop as an artist.”

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