Rural champion Kevin Geddes is retiring from Federated Farmers after more than 30 years pushing the causes of the rural community and ensuring its people were protected from industry and government decisions.
He finishes tomorrow, December 21.
At a celebration/farewell dinner at Lake Hood last week, he was made a Life Member of the Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers Province, in appreciation of a lifetime of dedicated service to Mid Canterbury Farmers, Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers and Mid Canterbury Farmers Charitable Trust.
The dinner was attended by Federated Farmers members from within Mid Canterbury and from the national body, rural industry members and dignitaries.
The province award followed his life membership of Federated Farmers New Zealand the week prior.
“I’m hugely honoured. There are exceptional farmers in this area.”
He said Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury has had more farmers on the national board than in any other province. The “intellectual power” in the room at his celebration/farewell dinner was “extraordinary”.
Although Mr Geddes, QSM, may close the office door in one capacity, he will not be going far.
He has many plans to fill in the days.
Not only will he spend more time with wife, Lorraine, and family members but there was also research planned for a book, a trustee role, men’s choir and voluntary adviser options.
“You don’t spend a lifetime with an organisation and just walk away. I have a soft spot for Federated Farmers staff and the people that are involved and do what they’re asked to do,” he said.
“It’s been hugely satisfying working with people in this area, it’s people first.”
“I’ve been hugely privileged and hugely enjoyed what I’ve done.
“I was fortunate that through troubled times I was able to develop skills I never knew that I had, to mediate between financiers and ;(farming) families.”
He was able to reinvent himself in an area that might have been physically less demanding, but was intelligently more demanding than the farm work he had been doing.
“I am hugely thankful to the people who allowed that to happen.”
Mr Geddes’ (80) career began from farming in Central Otago and grew after being elected to Federated Farmers Otago/Southland Club in 1960.
He was in the national farm cadet scheme and a Nuffield Scholar in 1972.
In 1973 he moved north to Mid Canterbury and farmed beef and ;sheep, with limited crops, at Cracroft and a dairy farm at Trevors Road, both in Carew.
“My generation drained the swamps but today’s generation are required to protect the swamps. We had the freedom to do that and the economic benefits.”
It was those freedoms, and insights, that helped to generate New Zealand’s wealth and gave it a first world country status through its farming intensification to maintain its economic integrity.
And farming still underpins the New Zealand economy, he said.
Now consumers of food demand accountability, want to know how food is produced and that animals ;are unharmed and those farmers were “producing at a level unheard of in my day. That’s the world we live in today.”
Then Mr Geddes saw his own on-farm role change in the late 1980s when the dollar rose 30 percent and wiped out the export barley industry and nearly crippled New Zealand.
It resulted in forced farm sales.
Funding was made available from then-prime minister David Lange, and Mr Geddes went into battle to get help for struggling rural community members, through the formation of the New Zealand Rural Trust (early Rural Support Trust).
At the time he was able to put a manager on the beef and sheep farm and had a sharemilker on the dairy farm.
After just over a year, he was offered the role of Provincial Chief Executive Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury and eventually sold both farms.
He has a wealth of knowledge and not only served as an executive on the fertiliser quality council but was still an executive director with the New Zealand Groundspread Fertiliser Association.
He planned to retired from his role with the groundspread association once a strategic review has been completed early next year.
During his time within Federated Farmers he has had some prolific titles including as National Grains Manager Federated Farmers New Zealand and went on to analysing policy development as a policy adviser.
He has also served on the national meat and wool board, on arable industry policy and agricultural transport and with herbage seed growers’ sub section as well as branch chairman roles.
He went into the policy sector to make sure the future farming industry would not suffer the same fate of the 80s and that decisions made at top levels would “do no harm to large sectors of the community”.
There would always be work to do.
Over the years, he had seen great technical advances and leaps in intelligence capabilities, such as soil probes and irrigation systems with mobile phone notifications, which were at the disposal of farmers today.
They required capital investment but made farmers lives a lot easier.
In Mid Canterbury intelligent use of water had given farmers high quality food products not decimated by drought conditions.
But as more extreme temperatures around climate change happened, there would be a greater need for more intelligent use of water for the cultural, economic and wellbeing of New Zealand, and most of the world, he said.
With technology “we can use less water more efficiently. It was unheard of in my day, it’s brilliant.”