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CLIENT NEWS: Waikato rural professional honours family Fieldays legacy

Te Awamutu-born Louise Wallace has a life-long connection to the New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays.

“I’ve been going to since I was just a baby in a front pack,” says Ms Wallace, 28, a Te Awamutu farm investment support.

“I always enjoy going to Fieldays; there is so much to see and do, and I always come away having learned something new about the agricultural industry.”

Together with her sisters Alana and Hannah, Ms Wallace grew up on a dairy farm at Pukeatua, south of Cambridge. The family’s agricultural heritage and passion for the land saw all three sisters find work in the primary industry as adults.

“Our parents always took us to Fieldays, it was just something we did every year,” recalls Ms Wallace. “For us, going to Fieldays was an exciting family outing – made all the more fun because Grandad was there.”

Her grandfather, Des James, was the founder of James Engineering Limited based in Gore. Every year he travelled to Mystery Creek as an exhibitor, to showcase his company’s soil aerator equipment.

“Because he lived in Gore we didn’t get to see him and Nana often. We all knew where his site was at Mystery Creek and looked forward to big grandad hugs,” says Ms Wallace.

She has many fond childhood memories of the Fieldays. “As a kid I remember sitting on the step of Grandad’s Fieldays caravan eating mandarins. I always know it is mandarin season when it’s Fieldays.”

She recalls a native tree stand one year a couple of sites down from her Grandad’s stand.  “My sister Alana went over to this stand and the man gave her a free tree because she was Des James’ granddaughter,” says Ms Wallace. “I wanted a free tree too, so I went and got my tree. Mum and Dad weren’t too happy about lugging two trees up the hill back to the car. Twenty years on, my tree is still alive in Mum and Dad’s garden on the farm.”

Boarding at Hamilton Girls’ High School didn’t stop Ms Wallace from making the annual pilgrimage to Mystery Creek.

“It was usually teacher-only day on the Friday so all the students would go to the Fieldays. It was fun seeing how many bags, pens and balloons we could collect – anything and everything we could get our hands on!”

Although her grandfather passed away three years ago, Ms Wallace still likes to attend Fieldays. “Mike Key took over Grandad’s business and has worked for him as long as I can remember,” says Ms Wallace. “It’s still nice we can visit Mike and the team at the Fieldays because, to me, they are part of our extended family.”

Ms Wallace says she didn’t plan a career in agriculture. “As a high school student, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” she admits. “As I got older, and saw the many opportunities there were in agribusiness, I thought ‘maybe I did like this whole agriculture thing’.”

She enrolled in a Bachelor of Agricultural Commerce at Massey University, majoring in agribusiness and rural valuation.

“My dream job was to be a rural banker,” says Ms Wallace. “However, I finished university and I saw the job with FarmRight advertised on the Massey web site and applied. I’ve been with the team in Te Awamutu now for over six years and love it.”

She works in farm investment support for FarmRight, which specialises in business and investment management for large scale dairy farms.

Together with husband Thomas Herbert, Ms Wallace also helps contract milk 480 cows on her parents’ dairy farm in Pukeatua.

“I suppose you could say I’m a weekend farmer,” says Ms Wallace. “Thomas and I were 50:50 share milking for four years before Mum and Dad bought the neighbouring dairy farm this season. They gave us the opportunity to go contract milking and now we’re in the process of succession planning and setting up an equity partnership with them.”

The couple met while studying at Massey and were married a year ago on the family farm.

The location where they got married was also where Louise and her sisters were filmed as part of a television campaign created to mark the 50th anniversary of Fieldays.

Eldest sister Alana is a crop monitoring coordinator for PGG Wrightson, while youngest sister Hannah is an agri-manager for Ravensdown.

The Wallace Sisters’ story will debut as a 30-second television commercial during Country Calendar on TVNZ 1 this Sunday 10 June from 7pm. A longer version of Wallace Sisters’ story is available in the new documentary box set Fieldays Stories, available on TVNZ OnDemand (TVNZ.co.nz).

“It is an honour to represent women in agriculture and to tell our story,” says Ms Wallace. “It shows young women that, regardless of your background, you can have a rewarding career in the primary sector – and it’s not all about driving tractors and milking cows.”

Marketing manager for New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays, Taryn Storey, says agriculture has always been part of the Wallace sisters’ lives and they’ve channelled that into their careers.

“To me, they are the epitome of the event as we celebrate 50 years,” says Ms Storey. “It’s in their blood. They’ve gone with their mum and dad, and as adults they go back again. Fieldays is an event for the family and generation after generation attends Fieldays.”

Ms Wallace says that those who are interested in a career in agriculture can learn a lot about the options by visiting the Fieldays Career and Education Hub, or just by wandering through the Fieldays site.

“If you are interested in getting into the agricultural sector then I would encourage you to get along to the Fieldays,” says Ms Wallace. “It’s such a great day out, and it’s inspiring to see the diversity of people and businesses across the spectrum at Fieldays.”

Fieldays anniversary event: What will you find? – Hamilton City, Friday 8 June

A Fieldays activation event will be held on Friday 8 June in Hamilton’s Garden Place to celebrate the Wallace Sisters’ story, and to bring the Waikato community together to celebrate Fieldays’ 50th anniversary.

Taryn Storey says the Garden Place event will be timed to catch business people leaving work, and volunteers will serve up free soup to those passing by. Popular radio host Jamie McKay from The Country Show will be there MC-ing and Doug Avery, author of The Resilient Farmer will also be speaking.

“Fieldays is a national event that means a lot to people all over New Zealand, so it’s been important for us to get out into communities and towns across the country and engage with Kiwis about Fieldays,” says Storey.

“We’ve done a road trip from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North, with events in community halls aimed at bringing communities together to share their stories of farming life and memories of Fieldays.”

The Hamilton event follows events in May and June in Winton, Feilding, Te Puke and Kerikeri.

For more information about Fieldays 2018 see www.fieldays.co.nz

PICTURED ABOVE:  Sisters Hannah, Louise and Alana Wallace