Alex Field has gone from shy teenager to confident young farmer who knows how to pull out all the stops and apply himself in his career. The transformation has come from an inner drive to succeed, as well as being intentional about his direction in life and taking every learning opportunity that comes his way.
Alex’s formative years were spent on a sheep and beef farm in Manawatu, until his family switched from livestock to dairy farming. Coming from a large family of six siblings, both Alex’s brothers were shepherds and this was an early influence on him; the love for livestock farming stuck with him and he spent weekends and holidays working on sheep and beef properties.
After a Telford representative visited his high school, bringing lunch for the students and making a good impression, Alex headed south for a Telford Taster Camp, which informed his decision to train there.
“It was the great unknown for me, I moved from the North Island to the south. That complete change in atmosphere helped me stay engaged and I built a whole new range of skills, as well as beefing up existing ones.”
Alex completed Level 3 Certificate in Agriculture and Level 4 Certificate in Farm Management in 2011. He described the two certificate programmes as “Basic building blocks of farming knowledge. I was able to build into future skills and learning. The practical side especially helped me get a foot in the door when I first started shepherding.”
The second year - the Level 5 Diploma in Rural Business – Alex described as where he “really got the bang for my buck”. It encouraged him to start thinking outside of the box and look at whole systems instead of single aspects. “This didn’t help so much when I started shepherding, but it certainly helped me climb the ladder quickly.”
Alex said for him the biggest challenge he faced while studying was money. Whilst the course fees were covered by government funding, he still had to pay for accommodation; with ‘necessity being the mother of invention’ it provided impetus for him to find a solution.
“It was expensive to fly home, so I worked down south for the holidays. I turned my weakness into my strength. I ended up with a great range of skills and a list of employers happy to recommend me, and one that got me my first shepherding job.”
Alex acknowledged it was the social life and mixing with other students at Telford which proved to be the greatest reward of his time there, because it saw him develop confidence and maturity.
“I was the only person my year in primary school, then I was one of three or 400 pupils at high school; it was a big change which I never adapted to and I was a shy teenager, “ Alex shared. The student crowd was great to be involved with at Telford as they were like-minded people. I came out of my shell and grew as a person, which wouldn’t have happened if I just went and started to work.”
Alongside great networking connections, lasting friendships, and a farming education, Telford also helped Alex discover how to have an open attitude to learning, making it a life-long pursuit. “... Telford taught me that there was always something to learn ...”
When he graduated at the end of 2012, Alex started out shepherding and immediately set himself really clear career goals; unsurprisingly, he nailed them: “I had a goal to stock manage at twenty-five, which I achieved by twenty-four. Then I had a goal to be Farm Manager by age thirty. I did that at twenty-six.”
Currently he is a Farm Manager for Landcorp, managing Waipuna Farm, near Mossburn, which is a 650ha property carrying 4000 winter stock units in sheep and bull beef.
His self-motivation to continue achieving in farming remains evident, with his involvement in the Young Farmer of the Year competition. He found the broad, basic skills and knowledge learned from Telford, covered areas which frequently came up in the contest. Alex won the Otago Southland final of the 2022 Young Farmer of the Year, going on to achieve fourth overall in the national competition, as well as picking up the Community Footprint Award.
With a few years’ experience under his belt, Alex is now in a position in his career where he can say, “the world is my oyster”. He also has some sage advice to those who want to train for the farming sector:
“You never know everything so you should never stop learning. Also, don’t be afraid to take the path less travelled. Everyone wants to walk around beautiful tussock-covered hills with dogs, but that stinking, finishing job drenching lambs all summer will take you further in your career.”
“Don’t be afraid to try something new - my biggest learnings are from when I took a job that I knew nothing about, or was well over my head. If you’re not feeling pushed in your job, you’re not growing.”