Two new board directors are set to put the spotlight on youth at the Henty Machinery Field Days.
HMFD chairman Ross Edwards said the appointment of new directors, Mark Hasler and Matthew Noll, was an important part of the Co-operative’s succession planning strategy.
Mr Edwards also paid tribute to Cookardinia farmer John Maher who stepped down as deputy chairman after serving 21 years on the board.
Mr Maher has been an active co-operative member for 45 years.
For many exhibitors in recent years, Mark Hasler has been a familiar face on the entry gates, working alongside Mr Maher.
Mr Hasler, 47, brings 15 years of working at the coalface of the field days with him to the board table.
He has spent the past 11 years working as a station hand for the mixed enterprise, Scholz Farming at Morven, and each year takes annual leave to work on field day preparations, unloading machinery and exhibitor entry.
Mr Hasler has been deputy captain of the Culcairn North brigade of the NSW Rural Fire Service for over seven years.
“It is a great area to live – everyone works together if there is a problem,’’ he said.
“I have been thinking about joining the HMFD Board for some time and bring practical experience of the day to day operations.
“We have to keep the younger members enthused – we have quite a good group of members aged in their 20s to 30s, and need to encourage them to keep coming along.’’
Mr Hasler believes the survival of field days lies with being proactive, innovative and promoting new products and ideas.
“We’ve still got to have that practical, physical display but take advantage of the digital technology and social media,’’ he said.
Matthew Noll’s earliest memories of Henty involve watching the sheep dog trials and climbing over tractors when he attended the field days with his farming family from West Wyalong.
He was encouraged to work at the field days in 2007 by a mate while attending St Paul’s College, Walla Walla.
These days, Mr Noll takes a week of annual leave to work out at the site during the event.
His role includes forklift driving and working on the exhibitor entry gate.
“It’s a good place to be – the young people bring their friends out and we need to show them (being a co-operative member) is an enjoyable experience,’’ he said.
“We all band together to get through the tough days and it gives us a sense of accomplishment.
“I really enjoy being able to step out of the office, just be one of the boys and catch up with people.’’
Mr Noll, 26, works as an accountant at Trinity Anglican College at Thurgoona, and also helps out on his family’s small holding at Burrumbuttock.
He brings financial, analytical and corporate governance skills to the boardroom table at Henty.
Mr Noll said the field days drew a diverse customer base and the younger generation without a farming connection needed to be catered for.
“While those people are at Henty, we can show them agriculture is still quite relevant,’’ he said.
“There are boundless opportunities for young people in agriculture, even if it is not at an operational level – farmers are needing more technology these days meaning analysts and computer programmers are required at corporate level.’’
Chairman Ross Edwards encouraged any person interested in contributing to the field days to join the HMFD Co-operative and reap the benefits of volunteering in a supportive and positive environment.
“Co-operative membership requires an active interest in the betterment of agriculture, and it’s all about pitching in to help grow one of the nation’s leading agricultural events,’’ he said.