International visitors inspired by farm stint

By Christine McKay

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Alix Gray from Morpeth in Northumberland is a favourite with the calves on Maharahara dairy farmer Andrew Cammock's farm.
Alix Gray from Morpeth in Northumberland is a favourite with the calves on Maharahara dairy farmer Andrew Cammock's farm.

Hosting overseas agriculture students means Andrew Cammock's dairy farm is something of a united nations.

But the AgriVenture exchange is a win for the Dannevirke dairy farmer and the people from around the world who work on his farm.

Andrew, a Maharahara dairy farmer, is about to say goodbye to Alix Gray who is returning home to Morpeth in Northumberland in the UK, but Alix loves the rural life in New Zealand, and is confident she'll return.

Alix has been working on the Cammock dairy farm for 12 months, while Catrin Davies from North Wales left earlier after her stint on the property. Now Jakob Gundersen from Aalborg in Denmark has arrived to spend eight months learning more about New Zealand agriculture.

"I feel I have a sense of responsibility to host these overseas young farmers, because Fiona [wife] and I had a great overseas experience and I have a passion to make sure these young people have a wonderful time here," Andrew said.

"We're a united nations and it's great to have a different set of eyes and a different perspective on the farm. Our exchange farmers are all keen to work as well."

Alix was required to spend 12 months on a placement as part of her agricultural degree and the chance to come to New Zealand fulfilled her dream to travel.

"I got to step outside my comfort zone and I've loved it here," she said. "My family have a sheep farm and the only dairy experience I'd had was at university. The farming practices are so different because we house cows indoors."

Andrew said Alix and Catrin were both thrown in the deep end on his 480-cow farm.

"It was either sink or swim, but for my children, Jack, 7, and Flynn 3, it's been a great learning experience too. Jack gets out his atlas to see how far our exchange people have travelled and they add another dimension to our family."

Milking and driving a tractor have all been new for Alix.

"We don't have a tractor on our farm at home, so I've been trying hard not to run into any gates here," she said. "I'm now into a routine of getting up early for milking and feel I've gained more independence and confidence knowing I can cope."

And while Alix said she's not looking forward to returning home to freezing temperatures and snow, her time in Dannevirke has changed her idea on a career.

"I've one more year at university, but I'm not sure what I will do now," she said. "I had been considering working as a farm consultant, but this year on a farm has made me realise I don't want to be in an office, so perhaps I'll come back here."

When she comes back Alix said she'll be checking the Cammock herd for her favourite calves, Carol, Jenny, Ethel, Bernard and Albert.

"Yes, I've named them so Andrew had better watch out if they're not around when I return," she said.

Perhaps Bernard and Albert may have moved on, but with 140 calves raised on the property - replacements and bulls - there's been no shortage of animals for Alix to name. However, it hasn't been all work and no play. Alix made a two-week trip to the South Island soaking up all the usual tourist experiences - but not bungee jumping.

"I pushed my limits by going into the sea and on to the glacier, but I'll leave the bungee up to Jakob," she said.

Meanwhile Dane Jakob is just three weeks into an eight-month stay on the farm.

"I came down here to have a good time and see New Zealand. I didn't know what to expect and this job is a good way to enjoy the culture, he said.

Jakob has finished a three-year degree in economics and although his parents have a dairy farm, he doesn't want to go into farming.

"When I return to Denmark I will try and get an apartment and a job in economics or sales. But I might have to go back to university if the economic situation hasn't improved," he said.

Jakob said he likes the more relaxed style of New Zealand farming.

"Compared to Denmark there's less stress. Getting 400 cows in for milking here is easy, you just grab the motorbike and you're away," he said.

"Mind you my dad and I thought New Zealand would be back in time without internet and instead I've discovered this country is very much like Denmark."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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