Wanted to start this blog off with a selection of photos from the boot camp and conference, before a short and sweet version of the last few days of conference – why short and sweet? because I’m going to be writing about them for the magazine! so you will have to wait for them to be published 🙂
So day 3 kicked off the farm tours portion of the conference. Sadly, I didn’t get to go on any of the tours I really wanted but I was pleasantly surprised by the tours I did go on. Friday saw me go on the “Post mining landscape – re cultivation in the Rhineland” tour. Here I got some insight into the changing scene of power generation in Germany, got to visit an open cast lignite mine and a few farmers who are farming re cultivated land. There seems to be a unique and sometimes tense relationship between the power company and farmers, who, due to the mining act are not able to say no to the mining. A complex relationship indeed and I wish I had the chance to investigate further into this. But again, the language barrier proved a bit tricky despite my best attempts at signing out what I meant.
Day 4 saw me on a tour with some familiar faces from Young Leaders and a few others. The water protection and dairy tour saw us visit a big lake (because I really don’t see enough of those in NZ) and a few dairy farms with interesting side businesses. One farmer sported a 4 million euro biogas plant, the other a highly diversified farm business that included not only a dairy herd but a farm shop, cafe, accommodations and farm tours.
During our trip to the farm with the biogas plant I was stunned at the complete lack of anything health and safety. Not for the first time did I go in search of health and safety signs or sign in sheets on a German farm, and not for the first time did this prove to be a fruitless venture. For some reason I expected there to be more on the h&s scene, perhaps because its becoming so ingrained in my mind from all the attention the topic is getting in NZ. One couple I spoke to on one of the tours suggested that perhaps Europeans had more common sense than those of us in the southern hemisphere. Ouch! But, I shouldn’t have been surprised, as I was actually asked by one person if we still wore grass skirts in NZ. Better than being called an Australian I suppose. Although that happened too.
After the last day of farm tours I had a total of 30 minutes from when the bus dropped us back at the main hotel to get to my hotel (a 10 minute walk away) get showered, changed and ready for the gala dinner that night and back to the main hotel to board the boat. After power walking to my hotel, saying a quick hi and bye to the boyfriend, I successfully got ready in record time, and apparently looked half decent.When I get my hands on a photo I shall share.
The gala dinner saw us pile onto a boat for a dinner and cruise up the river Rhine, something I highly recommend doing if your ever near the Rhine… and a boat. I did discover that despite common perceptions of journalists and ag-journalists, we are certainly a lively bunch. When not discussing the hard hitting issues of the day (in this case Brexit was top of the discussion card) everyone was drinking, dancing and generally having a fantastic time. Some more than others. I may or may not have received a message from one journalist saying “nice to meet you sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye last night… or I might have.. I don’t actually remember.”
During the dinner awards were given out, the flag officially given to the South African guild as the hosts of the 2017 conference and there was even cake! Hurrah! By the time the boat docked most of us were well and truly ready for bed. Although ready for some zzz’s it was a bit bitter sweet having to say goodbye to the wonderful group of friends I had made over the past week. It’s not often you get the chance to make connections with people from all corners of the world, and even rarer still to keep those friendships going in the future, but I am confident that the bonds we formed professionally and personally will last the distance because, there is always twitter!
And thus ended my very first IFAJ conference. It was an extraordinary week. Tiring, interesting, frustrating and full of amazing food. I am so grateful to the New Zealand Guild for their support in my application for the Alltech young leaders award and indeed to Alltech for sponsoring the award and all those involved in creating a wonderful two day boot camp (thank you for not making us do physical work like the word’boot camp’ implies!)
As already mentioned, articles from this week will be featuring in the coming issues of the Dairy Exporter magazine, which you can subscribe to online here (you do have to pay but some articles may be free!).
The following day saw the boyfriend and I begin our journey home to NZ. As Germany’s parting gift to me something a little bit cute happened.
At Frankfurt airport we had just got through security and were in search of food. An airport employee approaches the boyfriend and says:
“You have a lot of luck with you.”
We looked at each other a bit confused and asked why, the man replied
“The woman standing next to you.”
And smiled and walked off! Any guys reading this, take note – this would make a spectacular pick up line.
We got home this last Sunday and cracked back into work on Monday, so needless to say we are tired! But happy to be home to our animal family and getting prepared for our next adventure… or maybe just catching up on Game of Thrones and eating chips and dip for awhile… who knows!