"It's probably my swansong but it's been all good, I've been to a bloody few I can tell you," said South Canterbury farmer, Tom Henderson.
The Pleasant Point man has been coming to Federated Farmers' national conferences for 54 years and still enjoys the candour and camaraderie it holds.
When he first attended in 1960, New Zealand had its first television broadcast and Keith Holyoake was about to become Prime Minister. Some rural folks might recall Barry Crump's iconic "A good keen man" published that year.
At last month's Palmerston North gathering, Mr Henderson had his picture taken.
In all those years he has been coming he reckons it was the first time ever.
An agile figure at seventy four years of age, he spoke candidly reminiscing about his long association with the federation. He said "I never had aspirations to become a leader or national president but I got lots of satisfaction from helping with the water plans and environment."
Starting out as a delegate for young farmers in his community, the former grains, seeds and sheep farmer became a strong advocate promoting the importance of irrigation and water storage in South Canterbury.
When discussing his province he was particularly animated. His voice increased with pride when talking of the Ophua water scheme, an award winning initiative he pioneered "It's a real beaut," he said. "Our dam is the benchmark for the rest of the country and our future -- if we want a good future. I remember David Lange talking about farming being a sunset industry, but we have to realise we have these opportunities and make it happen. With all the abundant water we have and vegetables we can grow this can keep New Zealand moving forward."
There was no doubt reliable water storage was the "real key" to the nation's future prosperity and it's certainly not "rocket science".
Talking science, it's more prevalent now compared to previous conferences and is readily accepted by farmers old and new.
"The Government, Federated Farmers and scientists are looking deeper for answers and solutions to find suitable strategies. Farmers understand this and are definitely more environmentally responsible," he said.
Since retiring, Mr Henderson stays active, growing kale seeds which are sold direct to farmers. He also does his bit for the local economy taking tourists out water skiing on Lake Ophua while making time to talk about the dam venture and its benefits.
Above all, he enjoys settling down with a glass of Pinot Noir to watch his beloved Canterbury Crusaders. "I'm a genuine one-eyed Cantabarian you know; seriously I'm the real deal. When I was a wee fella I lost one of my eyes and I have been that way ever since," he smiled.
Tom Henderson is an Officer of The New Zealand Order of Merit (O.N.Z.M) 2010.