South Island women recognised for their service to NZ Young Farmers

Posted by on 16 August 2018 | Comments

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Two South Island women have been recognised for their tireless service to NZ Young Farmers and their communities.

Sarah Heddell, 30, and Emma Sutherland, 31, are the joint recipients of a national award for service to NZ Young Farmers.

The pair received a standing ovation when they were presented with the accolade in Invercargill.

“It was kind of embarrassing,” laughed Emma, who is modest about her achievements and doesn’t crave the spotlight.

“The award is well deserved. Emma does so much for NZ Young Farmers and a lot of it goes unnoticed,” said Lisa Anderson.

Emma is affectionately known as “Miss Efficiency” and is the driving force behind two major fundraisers.

Clinton Young Farmers holds an annual quiz night, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The wildly-popular event has raised $34,000 for the Cancer Society.

“The quiz is held in Clinton and we’ve had to cap the number of teams taking part to 36 because we can’t fit any more in the hall,” said Emma.

“I was only slightly involved for the first two years, but I’ve really got stuck in over the last eight.”

“We couldn’t do it without the rest of our amazing club. The whole club has to be behind events or they don’t succeed,” she said.

Former Clinton Young Farmers member Lisa Anderson said the event has grown exponentially under Emma’s direction.

“When we first started doing it at the local rugby club we’d be lucky if a dozen teams entered,” she said.

“Emma organises club members to help out, gets prizes from sponsors and ensures the quiz questions are written.”

“Emma is the driving force behind the quiz and it would not happen each year without her hard work.”

When Emma joined the Clinton club more than a decade ago “it was struggling”.

It now has a healthy membership and a focus on giving back to the community.

“We have organised six biennial balls. They have raised $21,500 for our club and can attract up to 300 people,” said Emma.

The club uses the money for an annual education scholarship of $1,000, which is given to a local student.

“It’s really rewarding seeing that money benefit someone,” she said.

The mother of two lives on a 2,000 hectares sheep and beef farm and is married to Michael, who she met through her involvement with NZ Young Farmers.

Emma’s 31 years old, which means sadly she’s about to age out of the organisation.

“I knew it was coming, but I often wonder ‘what next?’ NZ Young Farmers has been a huge part of my life,” she said.

“I have learned so many new skills and I wonder where I will be able to continue putting them to use.”

Emma’s served as treasurer for both her club and the Otago/Southland region.

“The roles have taught me a lot about finance and it’s made me keep up with advances in technology.”

“I’ve also learned a lot about liquor licences,” she laughed.

“I often tell people you don’t have to be the club chair to make a difference.”

Emma said she wouldn’t have been able to dedicate so much time to the organisation without the support of her husband and family.

“They have had a lot of patience and helped me along the way, which I am extremely grateful for,” she said.

Emma’s focus now is on passing on her knowledge to other club members.

“At the moment she’s trying to delegate jobs which in the past she’s done on her own,” said Lisa.

“Emma will have lots of lists to ensure the events are left in good hands and she’ll still be there as an advisory member.”

Receiving the national award for service was an emotional moment for Sarah Heddell, who is a member of Dunsandel Young Farmers.

“As everyone saw, I cried. It means a huge amount.”

“But the worst part was I was wearing heels, which I never do. So, I was crying and thinking ‘please don’t bump into anything and fall over’,” she laughed.

Sarah’s been involved in NZ Young Farmers for about 12 years. She joined the Dunsandel club when she was at Lincoln University.

“I was club secretary for about five years. I also served as a district secretary for two years as well,” she said.

Former club chairman Matt McEvedy said the award is “thoroughly deserved”.

“Sarah is tireless. She never stops. The Dunsandel club owes a lot of its success to Sarah.”

The pair first met in 2011 heading to Masterton for the Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

A volcanic ash cloud had forced the cancellation of their flight, triggering a hastily-arranged road trip.

“It was fun, but it was also a bit of a disaster. We all got quite sea sick on the ferry ride across Cook Strait,” said Matt.

The trip was to be Sarah’s final time at contest as a spectator. Within months she was helping breathe new life into the national Stock Judging Competition.

“Entries in the competition had dwindled and we started rebuilding the event in Dunedin in 2012,” she said.

“We sort of did it backwards. Initially we got people to compete at grand final to generate interest.”

“Then eventually the regions started putting forward regional winners for a national final,” she said.

Sarah’s involvement grew the following year in Auckland.

“I’d gone up for the Stock Judging Competition. But I remember sitting there one night at 2am helping do seating plans,” she laughs.

“I’m not the sort of person who takes a free lunch. I like to get stuck in wherever I can.”

A proud moment was helping to organise the Tasman Regional Final in Oxford in 2013, which took the award for best regional final.

“That was huge for me. We had been runner-up in that category for about three years,” she said.

Sarah was on the organising committee for the Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Christchurch the following year.

“The night before practical day Sarah was out in the dark making sure everything was ready, while everyone else was watching a debate. She’s a trooper,” said Matt.

Sarah also served as the Tasman regional manager on the contest management committee.

“Getting involved gives you confidence. I might not have had the confidence to do the job I do now if I hadn’t been involved in NZ Young Farmers,” she said.

Sarah is a land management and biodiversity advisor for Environment Canterbury, a role she’s held for two years.

But she’s been lovingly known as “Camp Mother” for much longer.

Sarah will often be a sober driver at functions so club members can drink and not worry about how they’re going to get home.

“The team are all very important to me. I don’t mind missing out on a couple of hours’ sleep if it means everyone gets home safely,” she said.

“It’s a lot harder in rural areas to get home if you’ve had a few drinks because public transport isn’t an option.”

Modest as ever, Sarah said her award is a team effort.

“For me something like this is not just about me or Emma, it’s about all the people that have been part of our journey on the way,” she said.