Posted by Erin Speedy on 30 October 2019 | Comments

A Teen Ag member has been publicly praised by the Minister of Agriculture during the launch of a new Government Policy to get more workers into the primary sector.

17 year old Phoebe Smailes met Minister Damien O'Çonnor at Fielding Agricultural High School, where the Government launched the Food and Fibre Action Plan.

Phoebe became the youngest ever woman not just to run in an open hunt sheepdog trials, but to also win it in 2017.

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Since then, she has taken out a number of other open titles and also qualified for the New Zealand team for the second time this year.

The Minister personally addressed Phoebe in his speech on Tuesday, praising her humble attitude, for being a quiet achiever and for doing good things in the community.  

He also tweeted about how much he enjoyed spending time with the future of the agricultural sector, saying Phoebe was “really inspiring”.

She said she was humbled by his words.  

“I’ve been gifted with sort of a natural talent with a lot of things farming,” she said.

“To have someone that high up say something about me and get a personal mention in his public speech that was going around the country, it sort of gets my name out there too so hopefully that’ll help me in the long run.”

“Like they say in farming ‘your network is your net worth’ so the more people you know the better off you’re going to be.”

With one more year left of school, Phoebe wants to head to Lincoln University to study an Agricultural Commerce degree.

After graduating, she plans to go to the UK farming for a year and return to become a farming consultant.

For other teens at school wanting to get into the primary sector, her message is “if it’s what you want to do - go and do it”.

“Do what makes you happy,” she said.

“Don’t take subjects at school because the teachers are saying you need to take these and you need these for a job. Take the subjects you want to take to get to where you want to be.”

Phoebe has been a member of Teen Ag for four years and is also involved in the leadership group.

This year, she and partner Anna Simpson took out the FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year title for the Taranaki-Manawatu region.

The pair made it to the Grand Finals but missed out on a placing.

“It was a good learning curve for us to get exposure and to see what we were in for” she said.

Phoebe and Anna plan to compete at the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Regional Finals for Taranaki-Manawatu Region in 2020.