Penny Stilgoe-Rooney. Photo supplied.Ashburton teen Penny Stilgoe-Rooney hopes a passion for big machinery will help her see the world.
She is determined to pursue a career as an agricultural contractor when she finishes Ashburton College.
“I live on a lifestyle block and most people laugh when I tell them my career goals,” said the 15-year-old. “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,” she said.
Penny is a founding member of her school’s active TeenAg club, which is known as Ash Coll Young Farmers.
She was 13-years-old when she became the club’s second chairwoman.
“One of our teachers Hayley Wards – who is a member of Pendarves Young Farmers – got the ball rolling and helped establish the club,” she said. “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 Aorangi TeenAg Awards.
“Winning the award was a huge shock. Our region has so many other talented and hard-working TeenAg members,” she said.
Penny takes every chance she can to learn new skills and grow her confidence.
She’s one of 170 students from across New Zealand taking part in a leadership course run by NZ Young Farmers.
The Leadership Pathway Programme is a collection of five learning modules for TeenAg members.
The modules focus on membership, fundraising, sponsorship, events and running a general meeting.
The programme is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership, funded by industry groups and the government. It’s 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,” said Penny. “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 leadership programme 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,” said NZ Young Farmers spokeswoman Mary Holmes.
“One of the most beneficial things is that students gain 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.
Holmes said students received a leadership badge and a certificate once they had completed the programme and this could go on their CVs.
Ash Coll Young Farmers is the smallest TeenAg club in the Aorangi region, but is holding its own. Club members Harriet Stock and Alex Jones competed at the TeenAg grand final in Invercargill in July.
Last month, Ash Coll Young Farmers toured the Dunsandel factory of dairy processor Synlait and the club also hosted guest speakers and completed two field trips this year.
“Earlier this year we visited the processing facilities of honey producer Midlands Apiaries,” said Penny.
Over the past decade Midlands Apiaries has increased the number of hives it manages from 1200 to 6000. Honey is produced for the domestic and export markets and a strong focus is on the pollination of local crops.
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 I even did some heavy rolling with a tractor. I plan to get back out there again these summer holidays. I can’t wait.”
© The Ashburton Guardian - 18 October 2018