The Lourie boys have already done a decent day’s farm work before sitting down at their kitchen table to talk about the upcoming TeenAg national final.
Sam had an early start with milking and Tom and Fergus have been breaking up concrete at a nearby farm. It’s hard to get them all sitting down at the same time – they’re always on the move and usually eating.
The family motto is “work hard, play harder” according to parents Nick and Keri.
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The family loves waterskiing at their local Back Paddock Lakes, but only if all the work is done.
They can all drive tractors, ride motorbikes, use chainsaws, build fences, milk cows or go hunting or duck shooting – obviously all with appropriate education and supervision, Keri says.
“If we’re not at sport at the weekends then we’re working on the farm and when that has to be seven days a week, then that’s what we do.”
Everyone is expected to do their share including 12-year-old Maggie, who has been deadheading agapanthus all morning.
The brothers’ sibling rivalry might come second to regional rivalry after they all qualified for the TeenAg final in Feilding in July – Sam, 17, representing Otago/Southland and younger brothers Tom, 16, and Fergus, 13, representing the East Coast.
TeenAg is a secondary school pre-cursor event to the Young Farmer of the Year and showcases boys’ and girls’ farming knowledge and skills.
Ironically, Sam missed out on the national final last year when he lived in the North Island and the final was in Timaru. This year he is based down south and the final is in the North Island.
He came third in the East Coast final last year behind the eventual national winners and runners-up from Rathkeale and Napier Boys’ High School. The latter has strong interest in the competition and a good stake in the future as well with four Year 9 teams this year. The school’s head of agriculture, Rex Newman, was nominated for trainer of the year at last year’s Sheep Industry Awards and is in charge of the school’s Young Farmers Club.
“He’s brilliant,” says Keri.
“He is motivated and enthusiastic and the boys have a lot of respect for him.”
Napier Boys’ High School almost had the three Lourie boys in its boarding house and classrooms this year. Tom, 16, is in Year 11 and Fergus, 13, is in Year 9. But 17-year-old Sam elected to board at Mt Aspiring College in Wanaka for Year 13 to take part in its hostel’s outdoor pursuit programme.
He heard about the course through word of mouth and is loving it.
“It’s a change of scenery and there’s so much outdoor stuff,” he says.
“We do walking, mountain biking, kayaking and heaps of skiing in winter… something different every week.”
The college has no agriculture programme, which was a bit of a knock for Sam, who achieved an excellence endorsement in the subject last year. But his TeenAg team mate, Josh Osborne, from Feilding, is also a boarder at the hostel and will be able to use the Gateway programme to brush up his farm work at a local station.
“He’s a sheep and beef farmer and I’m from a dairy farm so we have different strengths. I enjoy working and learning new stuff with Dad. A lot of the things we had to do in the TeenAg we’re doing on the farm anyway, so a lot of it came naturally. We had to show them how we would put a loader on a tractor – I could have actually done it, but we weren’t allowed to.”
Over the years he has worked in crutching and docking gangs and driven tractors. He’s worked regularly for another local farmer and worked this summer on the rake in a Foley Agri silage gang.
Sam is planning to do an engineering degree at Canterbury University next year, but in the meantime is appreciating the outdoor lifestyle Wanaka offers and has made Mt Aspiring College’s 1st XV rugby team.
Rugby is another thing the brothers have in common – they all represented Central Hawke’s Bay in the Hawke’s Bay Under 56kg Ross Shield competition.
“I was in the team for two years,” Fergus says.
“I was captain,” Tom is quick to add.
“I captained the team to its best result in years.”
“We’re not competitive around here,” mum Keri says, laughing.
“They’ve always had to work together but it doesn’t mean they’re not always trying to outdo each other.”
Tom is competing with fellow NBHS Year 11 student Angus Parkes. The duo are co-presidents of the school’s Young Farmers Club, which has about 50 members. He says they have some good events planned for the club this year including crutching and working bees.
Tom is planning to do an agricultural commerce degree at Lincoln University when he leaves school and was stoked to secure an excellence mark in his first NCEA Level One agriculture internal assessment last term.
Fergus has that to look forward to – he’s just finished his first term at Napier Boys’ but won’t taste agriculture as a subject until it comes around as an option in the third term. He’s competing with fellow former Takapau School student Guy von Dadelszen. Neither boy is afraid of hard work although Fergus gave Guy most of the credit for one of their TeenAg modules at the East Coast final in Waipukurau.
“We were told we were the only team to get a perfect score in one of them. There was a lot of maths involved – it was working out how much spray per hectare-type thing and Guy’s really good at maths. He’s from a sheep and beef farm and I’m from a dairy farm so we know different things as well.
“It was good to do so well in the regional final. So many of the modules were things where we knew what to do but had never actually done them, especially not fast.”
The Louries live on an 80ha runoff on the Takapau-Ormondville Road. Herd manager Cameron Purdy milks 280 predominantly-Friesian cows on the low cost system 2-3 dairy farm about 6km away, which is 100ha, including some lease land, averaging 100,000kg of milk solids. Their focus is on profit rather than production. All young stock are carried on the runoff. Neither property has irrigation. They grow their own silage as well as turnip crops.
“We try to do most of the ag work ourselves, but use Foley Agri for some of the bigger jobs,” says Nick.
“I think we have enough tractor drivers on the place already.”
A primary school teacher by trade, Keri was born on a Norsewood dairy farm and has been a judge in the Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa and Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards in recent years. She and Nick had entered themselves twice in the Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa awards – being judged most promising in their first year and then coming second – before buying their own farm and no longer being eligible.
Nick was born on a Hunterville sheep and beef farm and first went milking 20 years ago.
“I was 28 when I started and I’m 48 now. I’ve been through the system – my first job was for wages then we went through to 50/50 sharemilking and then we bought a farm. I had bugger all when I started but with hard work and some family support we’ve come a long way.
“There are still plenty of opportunities for motivated people in the dairy industry, especially once you see what you can achieve.”
The Louries are looking forward to the TeenAg final in July with lots of extended family planning to watch the boys compete, although there’s talk of needing to take separate vehicles in case the results cause any upsets to the family pecking order…