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Applications are open for the 2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarships, but you don't have to be an academic to apply, Rural Leaders says.
"If potential applicants have an entrepreneurial 'not afraid to do things differently' attitude, and especially if they're curious about the world and the people around them - we want them to apply," Rural Leaders chief executive Chris Parsons said.
The Nuffield Scholarship is aimed at people who are engaged, motivated and committed to solving old, and emerging challenges in the food and fibre sector.
Nuffield Scholars come from a wide range of backgrounds including: practical hands-on farming across agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, aquaculture, apiculture and forestry.
Rural Leaders hoped to see more applications from individuals involved in aquaculture and forestry in the future.
All applicants had a close affiliation with growing and producing, and a passion to help shape and lead the future of their industry.
"Food and fibre is and will be the world's most critical industry, with 10 billion people to feed by 2050," Parsons said.
"We need food and fibre leaders that can think, and act strategically and ultimately export their thinking, endeavour, and ethics for global impact."
One such leader is 2021 Nuffield Scholar recipient John Foley.
Foley is a Senior Seed Production Agronomist for PGG Wrightson Seeds, based in Canterbury.
His work is in the arable sector, and he has worked extensively in Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil as part of PGW Seeds' international activities.
Although Foley had a BCom in Agriculture from Lincoln University, and an MBA from the University of Canterbury, he said one of the great things about the Nuffield Scholarship was that applicants didn't have to have higher education to qualify.
"[You just need] the willingness to put time aside to commit to the scholarship, an open mind, and to be prepared to take on new experiences. They're the fundamental things," he told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
Foley had known about the Nuffield Scholarship for a long time, but was finally inspired to apply after a "great conversation" with 2019 scholar Hamish Marr, during a conference in Oregon.
"He really sowed the seeds for me having a crack at the scholarship."
Foley said word of mouth was a typical way of finding out about the Nuffield Scholarship.
"There's a really strong alumni associated with Nuffield. The impetus to apply often comes from previous scholars."
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview 2021 Nuffield Scholar John Foley on The Country below:
How Covid-19 affected the Nuffield Scholarship
Travel is a large part of the Nuffield Scholarship, which aims to help scholars gain new insights and ideas from overseas to bring back to New Zealand.
Covid-19, therefore, created a challenge for the 2020 and 2021 programme.
However, this didn't mean the experience was lessened in any way, Foley said.
"The scholarship is an outstanding opportunity, and in spite of the Covid situation, the Rural Leadership Trust has put together a really interesting programme for us."
In fact, travel restrictions meant the scholars could spend more time "getting to understand New Zealand agriculture at a really deep level," Foley said.
The pandemic had also affected how much time was spent on the scholarship.
"In a normal year pre-Covid, the expectation was around 16 weeks offshore travelling," Foley said.
"What we're experiencing is a little bit different - in the fact that we're really domestically focused at the moment - so that commitment away from the job or the farm hasn't been as great."
Another change brought on by Covid-19 was how the group used the scholarship money.
"The scholarship is worth $40,000 and that's able to be used for your travel and to get in front of people as you investigate your research topics."
However, Foley's group travelled together, and used the "very generous" scholarship to fund their tour around the country and for their own research related independent travel.
How to apply for the Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarship
The Nuffield Farming Scholarship accelerates leadership development, unlocks individual potential, and broadens horizons through study and experience.
Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarship applications for 2022 are open until 15 August.
There are up to five $40,000 Scholarships available.
The programme is looking for individuals who:
• Strive to challenge and test their thinking.
• Are not afraid to do things differently.
• Lead by doing and learn by trying.
• Have a strong sense of purpose.
• Are open to opportunities.
To be considered for the programme individuals must:
• Be actively engaged in farming, growing, agri-business or food production.
• Be committed to continuous leadership in the food and fibre sector and/or rural community.
• Exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit.
• Have a solid knowledge and understanding of the New Zealand food and fibre sector.
• Be a New Zealand citizen or hold New Zealand permanent residency status.
While scholars have the freedom to pursue a topic of personal interest, there is an
expectation that the topic will contribute to the development of New Zealand's food and fibre sector.
Find out more about the Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarship at ruralleaders.co.nz/nuffield.