Ashburton TeenAg member wins Emerging Leader Award

Future food producer Penny Stilgoe hopes a passion for big machinery will help her see the world

The TeenAg member is determined to pursue a career as an agricultural contractor when she finishes Ashburton College.

Penny Stilgoe

"I live on a lifestyle block and most people laugh when I tell them my career goals," the 15-year-old says. "But I love big tractors. Being an agricultural contractor is appealing because every day would be different.

"Plus, I can’t think of a better way to see a bit of the countryside, travel the world, and meet new people." 

Penny is a founding member of her school’s active TeenAg club, which is known as Ash Coll Young Farmers. She was just 13 years old when she became the club’s second chair.

"One of our teachers, Hayley Wards – who is a member of Pendarves Young Farmers – got the ball rolling and helped establish the club," she says.

"I have been really fortunate to have been chair for the past two years. It’s given me so many amazing opportunities."

Penny received the Emerging Leader Award at the recent Aorangi TeenAg Awards. "Winning the award was a huge shock. Our region has so many other talented and hard-working TeenAg members," she says.

Penny Stilgoe with Te Radar and other TeenAg members at the Aorangi Regional Final

Penny grasps every opportunity she can to learn new skills and grow her confidence. She’s one of the 170 students from across New Zealand taking part in a unique leadership course run by NZ Young Farmers. The Leadership Pathway Programme (LPP) is a collection of five learning modules for TeenAg members.

The modules focus on membership, fundraising, sponsorship, events, and running an annual general meeting. The programme is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) and has been developed to identify emerging leaders and ensure they’re entering career pathways in the primary industries.

"The programme is fantastic. I have picked up so many new skills," Penny says. "It’s given me ideas on how to grow our club’s membership, organise educational field trips, and approach businesses for sponsorship. Those are all really handy skills, which I can use in other areas of my life."

The LPP has been running for a few years, but this is the first year it’s been offered to students online.

"Some of the modules require students to write draft letters or plan pretend events such as fundraisers," Mary Holmes from NZ Young Farmers says."One of the most beneficial things is that students gain transferrable leadership skills, which they can use outside of their clubs."

Completed modules are marked within a week of being submitted. If a student passes, they can start the next one. "Once students have completed the programme, they receive a leadership badge and a certificate, which looks great on their CVs," Mary says.

Last summer Penny secured a part-time job on a dairy farm where she got to milk cows and drive tractors

Ash Coll Young Farmers is making waves, despite being the smallest TeenAg club in the Aorangi region.

Club members Harriet Stock and Alex Jones competed at the TeenAg Grand Final in Invercargill in July.

The club also hosted a number of guest speakers and completed two field trips this year.

"Earlier this year, we visited the processing facilities of honey producer Midlands Apiaries," Penny says.

Over the last decade, Midlands Apiaries has increased the number of hives it manages from 1200 to 6000. It produces honey for the domestic and export markets and has a strong focus on the pollination of local crops.

In September, Ash Coll Young Farmers toured the Dunsandel factory of dairy processor Synlait. "Being a TeenAg member has given us countless opportunities to have new experiences and grow our knowledge," she says.

Last summer Penny secured a part-time job on a dairy farm where she got to milk cows and drive tractors.

"I helped with several milkings, fencing, spraying and even did some heavy rolling with a tractor," she says. "I plan to get back out there again these summer holidays. I can’t wait."

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