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Nicolson speech to Telford Polytechnic

21 November 2008

Don Nicolson speech to Telford Rural Polytechnic graduands at 1.00pm

Stand tall. Take pride in being a farmer as your future starts right here, right now.

I would like to acknowledge the Chief Executive, staff and members of Telford's Board of Management, for giving me the privilege of honouring your hard work today.

I am a little awed at being here for my motto, many years ago, at school and college, was not dissimilar to that of Mark Twain's:

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

To the graduates of Telford Rural Polytechnic you are the future and what an exciting future awaits you in the years ahead.

This ceremony is not the beginning of the end for your education. Rather, it is just the end of the beginning. We farmers never cease learning.

Some of you will go onto higher education. Others will embrace life's university and build a practical career.

Whatever you do, here and abroad, you have been the beneficiary of an excellent academic foundation at Telford.

While your friends may have gone onto study law, accountancy, commerce or medicine, you have embraced the farming profession.

For we are a profession. A profession with many exciting arms.

Forestry, agriculture, equine, bee keeping, grains and seeds as well as agribusiness.

We are all farmers. Farmers whose commitment to the land generates the wealth that keeps our country afloat.
As farmers, it is often easy to play down what we do and what we achieve.

I wish you, when you return to your farms and homes to go away with one single thought. One single proposition.

Farmers are the founders of civilisation.

"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers are the founders of human civilisation."

That was written 144 years ago by Daniel Webster and how true it is.

Without safe, reliable and wholesome food nothing would be possible. Not literature, not music, not art, not science, not engineering. Nothing.

Our labours and those of our forbears created the climate for communities to form and for learning to flourish.

We are the founders and maintainers of human civilisation.

You are now about to embark on varied careers in New Zealand's most dynamic and progressive profession. Agriculture.

Agriculture is the undisputed backbone of our economy.

65% of everything we sell to the world comes from the land and the sea. If we include mineral exploration, that reaches a massive 75% of New Zealand's total exports.

Three quarters of New Zealand's wealth is generated by a mere 14% of its population.

Now if that doesn't give you bragging rights with your urban cousins, I don't know what will!

In 1985, before many of you were born, New Zealand agriculture abandoned subsidies to live in a world where we made our own way, under our own steam.

At the time many, including a rather famous ex-Prime Minister, predicted the death knell for our great profession.

Yet we resilient, canny, efficient and entrepreneurial farmers responded with verve and gusto the world had never seen before.

Let me explain it like this.

For 25 of the last 27 years, New Zealand agriculture has outperformed every single sector of the New Zealand economy.

When times got tough, we got tougher. When things got better, we got even better. That's the farming way.

You may be joining our great profession at a time when the world economy is uncertain. But don't be uncertain about your future. Not for a single moment

We are engaged in life itself.

We farm in a world where 800 million people are hungry right now. A world where global food reserves are at their lowest for nearly 35 years. A world that has 80 million new mouths joining it each and every year.

The future of New Zealand is farming in a world that needs more food and not less.

While we await the wall of subsidies to fall around the world, they will fall like dominos. This will create new market opportunities for you that I can only dream of.

While we face many challenges ahead you will have no regrets for the choice you made to study here at Telford.

From all your colleagues in the farming profession and from Federated Farmers I salute you and welcome you.

Stand tall. Take pride in being a farmer as your future starts right here, right now.


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