Words by: Anne Lee

The new generation of farm employees want to work for employers who help them learn and grow and create a farm environment where there’s a great team culture, a healthy work/life balance and provide fair pay compared with other career options, Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) 2IC Tom Chapman says.

Tom, 23, and a Lincoln University Bachelor of Commerce (agriculture) graduate gave LUDF focus day attendees some insight into what young people are looking for and what they value in their work life.

“We, as the new generation of farm employees value the importance of achieving a balance of social, environmental and financial success.”

They want an employer who will help them progress and reach their goals whether that’s to be a farm owner, sharemilker or milk harvester, he says.

“Along with this we like farmers who are open to new ideas and use technology – we’re the first generation to grow up with the internet as an everyday part of our lives and as a result like data.

“We want to farm smarter and see using technology to aid decision-making as an important part of it.”

Tom says while he might have liked a bank job, he’s fully enjoyed working on the LUDF for almost the past two years – the variety of work, the learning and the good team culture.

When he talked to his peers about what they value in preparation for his talk Tom says it was apparent that having a good team culture along with the ability to have continuous learning and personal and career development opportunities were high on the priority list.

Tom quoted Richard Branson – “Train people well enough so they can leave but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

He said a lot of young people go to university with an eye to bank or rural professional jobs and that’s where farmers are facing competition from for smart, young graduates.

They look to careers with banks for instance because they believe they have a strong reputation for employing good, keen, young people and developing them, Tom says.

“A graduate coming out of university looks at a banking job and thinks – 40 hours of work a week, every weekend off – which allows for a great work/life balance; potentially a work vehicle and good salary, along with a business that will invest in me.

“Unfortunately some young people don’t think the same thing when they think about the dairy industry.”

Ultimately they want a healthy work/life balance and fair pay compared with other career options.

A flexible roster that averages 45-55 hours per week and allows for people to play sport and attend training or pursue the activities they’re interested in outside of work.

Things like having the ability to swap out an afternoon milking to attend a friend’s barbecue can go a long way to creating that culture and feeling of a balanced lifestyle.

“The best of us want to grow and develop as human beings.

“Ambitious, motivated people value the opportunity to influence the farms they work on.

“Progressive employees like the opportunity to access key figures and information such as production targets, feed budgets, and possibly profitability information so they can see and understand how the decisions they make each day, impact the greater business.”


  • An environment where people are treated with respect.
  • Managers who take time to listen.
  • Managers who lead by example and have equal time of day for all their team members.
  • A leader who is going to step in and get his or her hands dirty and not just sit back and give orders.
  • Recognition for a job well done and feedback whether it’s negative or positive.
  • Employers who help employees progress and reach their goals.
  • Employers and managers open to technology.
  • Employers who are aware of industry issues such as nitrate leaching and are up to date with health and safety plans.
  • A good work/life balance.
  • Fair pay.
  • Flexible rosters.