Well i realize it has been a while, but been busy and had trouble finding stable internet to connect to to update you all. Soooo this could be lengthy! Waking up last sunday to news that flights to New Zealand (NZ) were being canceled due to ash clouds from chile, and that christchurch was having more afterschocks reading between 4.5 and 5.5 (when do aftershocks become actual earthquakes again?). So after some panic I was off to the airport knowing for the moment my trip was still on. I made it thru to my flight and this time with no excess baggage charges. Quite a site though--three shirts, two sweatshirts and two pairs of jeans oh yeah and 2pairs of socks but no fee for overwieght baggage. Landed in NZ and off to my hotel. Which in NZ are commonly termed as apartments did not know this as I was panicing as I could only find the apartment complex. Finally found how to enter the numbers and get buzzed in and get my key from the lock box and find my room all without seeing a single person. But my room had a washer and Dryer!!!!! I know laundry to most is not a big deal and not excitible but when your suitcase is begining to smell like a junior high gym locker-- you get excitied.
Anyway after a night of laundry it was off to auckland to meet with fonterra--the largest milk co-op in NZ. they are the worlds largest exporter of Dairy products and have over 5,000 customers in 140 countries, and source milk from over 20 other countries (including the USA) and made overe 16.6Billion dollars last year! They control about 95% of the milk in NZ and are a farmer owned and controlled co-op. Its funny when one of the dairy farmers here told me that it all came together about 10 years ago when we realized we are not in competition with each other (meaning other NZ farmers) we were in competition with the rest of the world. If Only the US farmer could see that we might actually develop policy that is advantageous to the industry rather than continuing the nit picky jealous based battles we caontinue to fight that does nothing but weaken our industry and put us further behind in the race for global markets.
So then it was off to the field days! Day one--opening day--invited to a breakfast press conference with the minister of agriculture and a bunch of other high ranking people from all over NZ agriculture, finance and parliment. Traffic backs up 10K out 6hrs before it actually opens. but I make it on time for breakfast and then as a VIP guest for opening ceremonies and a lunch with the Prime Minister ( I was one among many so it was not that big of a deal) Very interesting to hear all the perspectives and attitudes--many which are universal. Some want to continue to blame others for their hardships while others accept things as they are and say how are we going to adapt and make the best of the situation in front of us and a few say how can we change to mold the future into the direction we want to go in. Sounds very familiar.
But then it was the actual show. It was HUGE!!!!!!!!! Empire field days would fit into 1/4 of this place. mostly dairy based but some other things there too. Tractor pulls from antiques to super modified to regular 2 and 4 wheel drive tractors. fencing championships, horse riding and an excavator jamboree competition. not as many contacts there as some would have hoped but got a good feel of the insustry and where it may be heading from the types of equipment being sold. Dairy farming in NZ is nothing like US in that it is basically low input and medium out put and all based on export. but many of the actual farm owners are becoming like american farmers--they do not milk their cows, they spend a lot of time at meetings and functions and most aslo have incomes from other sources.
It was interesting to watch people at the field days. Many young couples (most dairies are seasonal in NZ and are dry now so people can get off the farm), with the woman pushing a baby carriage and the guy checking out the equipment. Little boys climb all over tractors and other big equipment while older guys lean over tractor tires either discussing how it used to be and how technology has changed the industry or they are trying to figure out how you use it or what you use it for. Mothers have that look--that says are we done yet? Do we have to look at one more tractor? This is not my idea of a day off the farm! And then come the typical discussions. She asks how much did he say? He replies Its really not that bad--which means I am not telling you until you have been out to dinner the kids are asleep and you are much more relaxed. It could be in NZ or NY its all the same.
Talking with one farmer last night and he said we all think our problems are of a local nature when in truth they are universal they just differ with magnitude and proximity. I jsut thought how true, now if we could only get together and solve these problems together jsut think how much better we all might be. But i guess that is a big part of why I am here.
I have much more to say and many more picts to share but time and stability of internet has been limited but will get back as soon as I can.