Work, play and travel are the three aims of Richard Houston’s seasonal farm work agency, which aims to offer young UK farmworkers experience on farms throughout New Zealand. Danusia Osiowy reports.
After spending four years working for a number of farm contractors in the UK, United States and Australia, 25-year-old Richard Houston launched Hanzon Jobs in 2005 – matching young farmworkers with contractors in New Zealand who require help through the summer. “I have worked all over England and met people that were keen to combine farm work with travelling,” says Richard, whose parents run a dairy farm in New Zealand milking 800 cows. “I had contacts in New Zealand and my idea to set up a business incorporating the two just snowballed from there.”
With significant experience driving tractors and working harvesters and foragers, Richard applied for a job in the UK to drive a silage chopper on a farm in Devon four years ago before coming up with the idea for Hanzon Jobs. He now spends five months each year in Devon working through the British summer before returning home in September to pursue his other agricultural contracting business and helping the new intake of young farmers from the UK settle into their work placements.
While past workers have been primarily based in Devon, he hopes the scheme will appear to young farmworkers nationwide. Last year, he recruited 12 people to complete a full work placement with some of the 15 contractors he has secured back home...
CASE STUDY: Around 40 young farmworkers have completed placements in New Zealand and combined the experience with an opportunity to travel. We catch up with three who gave the scheme a go.
Every contractor needs seasonal staff. You need their undivided attention for a few months…and then what do you do with them? each year it’s an issue to lure back good staff from wherever they have amused themselves over winter.
Southland Contractor Brian Hughes’ imported labour force. from left: Adam Pike, James Salter & Donald Tolley.
Hanzon Jobs has the solution – it sources good staff from the UK. Richard Houston runs Hanzon jobs from his base in South Canterbury. Contractors register on the Hanzon website and Richard can then discuss staffing options. Richard says there are a number of advantages in hiring overseas staff. One is that new machines are often released in Europe before they are here, and often he can find UK staff who are already familiar with the latest models. “As soon as the new piece of gear rolls into the paddock, they will get the most out of it from day one. The driver knows how to drive it, maintain it, and how to talk about breakdowns to the dealers’ mechanic. This allows the boss to work on growing the business instead of spending time helping an unfamiliar driver.”
Brian Hughes is a farmer and contractor based in Waimatua, Invercargill. He does silage, baleage, direct drilling and full cultivation. He has six permanent staff but needs 15 during the season. He employed four Englishmen this season. Three were through Hanzon Jobs and the other arrived independently. They arrived in October and left at the end of March.
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