Service to Young Farmers marked

by Anonymous Author

A Canterbury woman has been recognised for her tireless service to New Zealand Young Farmers and her community.

Sarah Heddell, 30, is the joint recipient of a national award for service to NZ Young Farmers, along with Southland’s Emma Sutherland.

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

It was an emotional moment for Sarah, who is a member of Dunsandel Young Farmers.

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

“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’.”

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 Dunsandel club chairman, Matt McEvedy, said the award was “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 seasick on the ferry ride across Cook Strait,” said Matt.

The trip was to be Sarah’s final time at the 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,” Sarah said.

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

Dunsandel Young Farmers Club member Sarah Heddell has been recognised for 
her hard work with a NZ Young Farmers’ service award

“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 said.

“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,” Matt said.

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 adviser for Environment Canterbury, a role she’s held for two years. 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.