Katie Spicer, On-Farm R&D Project Manager and caretaker of Fonterra’s Young Farmer Exchange Programme discusses the importance of sharing our knowledge, building strong dairying relationships, and how our farmers get back more than expected.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” says 19-year-old Nicolás Martínez, one of 14 lucky Chileans who have spent a year farming in New Zealand as part of Fonterra’s Young Dairy Farmer Exchange Programme.
Nicolás Martínez on a farm in South Canterbury
“The people are so kind, they treat the cows with such respect, and the level of technology is very advanced,” he says.
Since arriving, Nicolás has helped with everything from milking, animal care, and farm maintenance.
With only a few days of the programme to go, he’s now preparing to take his newfound dairy expertise home.
For host farmer Selene Harvie, his departure is bittersweet.
“Nicolás gives everything 100%. He’s a natural dairy farmer; it’s impressive how quickly he picks things up despite the language barrier,” she says.
“We’ll miss having Nicolás on farm. But he’s got a bright future ahead—I can’t wait to hear about his success at home.”
Fonterra farmer, Area Manager, and two-time programme host, Ruth Prankerd describes an equally positive experience.
The students also learn about Fonterra’s co-operative model and the New Zealand way of dairy farming. While teaching participants, host farms were also reminded of its benefits.
“Things we take for granted like our sharemilking system are new ideas to them.”
But it’s not just the Co-op sharing ideas—the young farmers bring a fresh perspective and energy to our farms.
Last Christmas, one of the participants helped Ruth’s family cook a huge South American-style BBQ instead of traditional Kiwi fare.
David Vera on a farm in South Waikato
Camila Cáceres on a farm in Waikato
The programme is run in partnership with Prolesur, a dairy processor based in Chile, which is part of Fonterra.
Valentina Montero, Prolesur’s CSR Coordinator says, “Southern Chile and New Zealand share similar climatic and geographical conditions, so this programme is a great opportunity for young talent to learn about the different ways of dairy production that can ultimately be applied here.”
This programme started in 2017 and since then, our farmers have benefited from 23 hardworking participants, with ten more expected to join next season.
Chile is an important market for the Co-op, so it’s essential we share our knowledge and expertise where possible, as well as continue to build strong dairying relationships with Chilean farmers for the future.
On-Farm R&D Project Manager and caretaker of Fonterra’s Young Farmer Exchange Programme.