For Taranaki woman Jessie Waite, a trip to Mount Cook was the motivator for joining Young Farmers eight years ago.

She has now recently been elected for the New Zealand Young Farmers board, a goal she has had since she joined.

"It was announced at the Young Farmers AGM, on July 4, which took place over a Zoom call. I was watching the call with my mother, Heather Anderson. When my name was announced it was an overwhelming feeling. The rest of the meeting was a blur after that," Jessie says.

She says it was nice to share the news with her mother.

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"It was really cool, she gave me a hug and the first thing she said was 'I knew you could do it'."

Jessie grew up in Taranaki spending her teenage years in Lepperton. She says while she didn't live on a farm herself, she was very much a part of the rural community.

"I spent a lot of time at my neighbours' place feeding out and shifting breaks. I was 16 when I began taking interest in the primary sector."

Jessie studied agricultural studies at New Plymouth Girls' High School and also completed land-based training.

She studied a diploma of journalism at WITT, working at the Stratford Press for two years before moving to Oamaru to work for their community paper.

It was in Oamaru that Jessie became a member of the Young Farmers.

"I joined Five Forks. Originally joined Young Farmers so I could go on a trip with my friends for their annual club trip to Mount Cook, but I soon got involved in the club, and I've never looked back."

She became the chairwoman of Five Forks and was elected onto the Aorangi regional committee.

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She says Young Farmers has helped with her personal development.

"I've gained more confidence and leadership skills. My public speaking has improved, I can run a meeting, crutch a sheep, I've competed in district contests, had a variety of leadership roles and met amazing people.

"I don't think any of this would be possible without the Young Farmers."

Jessie moved back to New Plymouth in 2016 and is now a part of the Central Taranaki Young Farmers Club. She is publicity officer for the club.

She has had a number of roles in Taranaki, including Secretary of the Taranaki District Young Farmers and chairwoman of Taranaki/Manawatu Regional Young Farmers.

"I was chair for two years before I stood down to stand for the board. However, it was the right time for me to go and a great person has taken my place."

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Becoming a member of the board has been a long term goal for Jessie.

"This year felt like the year to put my name forward. Being on the board is a big deal and I wanted to make sure I was 100 per cent ready."

She says being on the Taranaki Dairy Trust Board and her involvement with Young Farmers gave her the experience she needed.

"Being on the Dairy Trust board helped me understand what being part of a board meant. My time with the Young Farmers has given me the understanding of the needs and values of the members."

She says it is an honour to be elected.

"It's still so overwhelming but I'm really happy with the result."

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Jessie is still passionate about the primary sector, having three jobs in the industry.

"I'm the provincial office manager for Taranaki Federated Farmers, regional co-ordinator of the Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards and super admin for Grass Roots Media. I love being busy, it's great to be involved in things."

In 2018, Jessie was awarded the New Zealand Young Farmers Excellence Award.

"It was a big moment for me. All the work I've done for Young Farmers is volunteer work. I didn't expect anything from it, but to get acknowledged with such a high honour is amazing."

She says she encourages people to join a Young Farmers club.

"You gain so much out of being a member. It's a neat way to meet people, make connections and gain some skills. The friends you make are the friends you have for life."

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