Our Mission

Our mission is to nurture quality people into the Agribusiness sector.


Through a national collaborative training and development programme we will provide a credible career pathway for future farmers.

Strategic priorities include


To provide the opportunity for motivated young people to enter the sheep, beef and deer industry with the confidence of supported training and development


To provide an industry respected, employer led career pathway that will enable motivated young people to progress in their career.


To provide NZQA approved on farm programmes underpinned by proven methods and are future focussed.


To provide liaison support to our geographically isolated learners.


The GFF program is a great way for Wairere to continue its history of giving young people a start in the sheep and beef sector. Aimed more specifically at those who want to get into farming and may not otherwise have such an opportunity. It is very rewarding to see the students progress so quickly.

They benefit hugely from a well-structured program of practical skills training, on-farm experience and studying for a basic qualification. These young people are growing and learning as they go and the GFF support staff have been a great help in ensuring that all involved stay on track.  

Our sector desperately needs more passionate and well trained new entrants. Everyone on the staff is involved with their training and we all benefit from the experience."


Simon Buckley. Business Manager for Wairere Sheep Genetics


John Jackson


John is the managing partner of a 15,00ha bull finishing farm on the coast in Te Akau. His journey to a full-time farming career started with attending Lincoln graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.  He played rugby for both Canterbury and New Zealand Universities during this time. John then went to Oxford University in England on  scholarship – reading economics, philosophy and politics – where he attained a Special Diploma in Social Studies.

More recently as Chairman of the St Paul’s Collegiate Foundation John was a driving force in the development of Agribusiness curriculum which has subsequently been established in secondary schools nationwide aimed at encouraging tertiary capable students to consider a career in the industry .

John was encouraged to join GFF to help establish and enable a similar pathway of opportunity in the vocational training space.

John is married to Jenny and together they have three children.

Annabelle Subtil

Director, Sheep & Beef Farmer, North Otago

Annabelle's family owns and farms a high country sheep and beef property in Omarama.


As an employer and mother of two children, both interested in farming, she has long felt that there is not enough training for young people in agriculture. This is why she has become involved in GFF.


Now is a great time to be getting involved in farming and GFF helps provide those essential skills needed along with NZQA qualifications.


Tam Jex-Blake

Director, Sheep & Beef Farmer, Gisborne

Tam (with husband Dan) are owners of Mangapoike Ltd, a 23,000 sheep and beef farming business 50km south-west of Gisborne.

In 2016 Tam and Dan were awarded Beef + Lamb Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year and have piloted the GFF Essential Farm Skills Programme at Mangapoike since 2017.

Tam has been involved in education for many years. Due to geographical isolation, her children studied correspondence for four years. Tam then chaired the local school, Te Kura O’Manutuke for nine years and went on to chair Wanganui Collegiate School for nine years moving Collegiate from independence to state-integrated status.

Tam is a current member of the Rabobank Client Council. Tam holds an executive role on the GFF board.

Hamish Murray

Director & Manager, Bluff Station, Marlborough

Hamish Murray is the manager/director of Bluff Station – a large high country property in Marlborough running Merino sheep, beef cattle and 800 beehives.


The business, run in conjunction with family, employs several shepherds, general staff and beekeepers.


Hamish studied at Lincoln University before reading economics at Cambridge University (UK). He has recently been involved in the PQF Governance group, supporting farmers recovering from the Kaikoura earthquake, and completed a Nuffield scholarship in 2019 looking at Future Farm Workplaces.

“Helping and coaching other young people involved in agriculture to grow is important to me and GFF provides a platform to do that.”

Alexandra Vranyac-Wheeler

Alex is an experienced leader and senior manager in a range of industries and organisations (not-for-profit, commercial and government agencies), with a credible background in business strategy, people leadership and business transformation. 


She's passionate about contributing to the greater good by working with and through people, processes and systems to get the desired outcomes, as well as being experienced in strategy and leading transformational change within businesses and across ecosystems working across both management and governance roles. 


Alex is passionate about building agile business models that sustainably build future geared businesses, built on strong relationships and networks. 

Jo Johnstone

Director, Sheep & Beef Farmer, King Country

Jo grew up on a family sheep and beef farm at Birdling’s Flat, Banks Peninsula. On finishing school, she trained and worked as a Radiation Therapist in NZ, Australia, and the UK. On returning to New Zealand she married a sheep and beef farmer from Te Kuiti, King Country and have two children currently studying at university.


Jo enjoys being involved in the family farming business and took over the HR, environmental and Health and Safety responsibilities.


Jo is passionate about growing young people in the food and fibre sector and was frustrated by the lack of quality applicants in the sheep and beef industry. She was excited about the opportunity to make a real difference with the GFF employer-led initiative.


GFF offers clear and accessible pathways for young people as well as a relevant and quality tertiary education. Jo believes the real point of difference is the opportunity to offer pastoral care and support to both the student and farmer trainer.


Staff Members


Cyn Smith

General Manager

Cyn has worked in education for over twenty years and now leads the GFF staff team from Kinloch, Taupo. She most recently finished a fourteen-year role as the director of Tihoi Venture School – a satellite, residential, outdoor campus for St Pauls Collegiate; an academic, social and outdoor programme for Year 10 boys.

Before this Cyn taught at Reporoa College, Rotorua Girls High School and Wairakei Polytech in Sports and Fitness. Cyn has a passion for education and young people with a particular interest in experiential learning approaches. 

She completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Education Leadership in 2013 from Waikato University.

Cyn lives on 20 acres in Kinloch with her husband Chris and has three children.


Allysha Adams

King Country Liason Manager

Kia Ora, my name is Allysha Adams, and I am super excited to be the King County Liaison Manager.

I live between Te Kuiti and Bennydale on Maraekowhai Station/ Nikau Farm that my partner manages. Before meeting my partner and joining the sheep and beef industry, I grew up as a dairy farmer in the Morrinsville area. I have also trained and worked in the veterinary industry as a Vet nurse and Large Animal Veterinary Technician.

I have two boys aged 7 and 2 and will be adding another addition to our family in February this year.

In my spare time, I enjoy horse riding, squash, camping and gardening.

I am looking forward to working with you all on this new and exciting opportunity. I hope that we can have fun and enjoy our time learning together while helping to expand the Growing Future Farmers programme by growing awareness in our area and creating new opportunities for the future.

My Mobile number is 0211556664; there is no cell phone coverage at home, so my home number is 07 878 8692, or email

Taryn Helm

Wairoa Liason Manager

I am Taryn Helm, the Liaison Manager for the Wairoa region.

I live in Tiniroto, situated on the inland road from Gisborne to Wairoa with my husband and two children, where we manage Raukura Station, a 1000 ha sheep and beef property.

I have come on board with GFF as the agriculture industry is something I am very passionate about. I see the need and space to create an opportunity to train young people, grow them into future farmers and give back to our sector.

I look forward to embarking on the two-year journey with the students, watching them grow from strength to strength into capable keen young employees.


Andrea James

Taihape Liaison Manager

Hi I am Andrea James, Liaison Manager for the Taihape region.

I live at Pukeokahu where my husband Dan manages Makokomiko Station a 2400ha sheep and beef  property.  We have two boys, Tom who is at Feilding High and Charlie attends the local Pukeokahu School.  In my spare time I enjoy horse riding, gardening, being part of an active community and helping Dan on the farm.


The opportunity to be a part of Growing Future Farmers was very exciting as both Dan and myself have found it a challenge to employ suitable staff and see a need in the Agricultural Industry to help young people start their career.


I look forward to watching my students grow, achieve their goals and follow their careers once they leave the programme.  I enjoy surrounding myself with like-minded people and am excited to be given the opportunity to be a part of Growing Future Farmers.

Laura Gavin

Gisborne Liason Manager

I am Laura, the Liaison Manager for the Gisborne Region.

My husband, Matt, and I are sheep and beef farming just south of Gisborne with our three children. I have grown up in rural Gisborne within a family of horse riding livestock agents and auctioneers. Before starting a family I was the Sport Coordinator at Campion College and since have completed a Diploma of Primary Industry Business Management.

I am passionate about the primary industry sector and feel that Growing Future Farmers has created an excellent opportunity for young people to join our important and rewarding industry.

I am excited to join the GFF team and be a part of some special pathways into farming.


Helen Brennan

Wairarapa North Liason Manager

Hi, I’m Helen Brennan, Growing Future Farmers Liaison Manager for the North Wairarapa area.

Having grown up in the South Wairarapa on a sheep, beef and cropping farm, I then went on to study a Diploma in Rural Business Management. From here, I spent many years shepherding and as a Farm Technician throughout the North and South Island.

I am based near Flemington, where my husband manages Te Whangai Station. We have three children aged 8, 5 and 3. 

I have recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.

I enjoy surrounding myself with others who have the same passion as I for our Agricultural Industry and take pride in helping others succeed to achieve their goals.

Natalie Priestly

Wairarapa South Liason Manager

Hi, I’m Natalie, Growing Future Farmers Liaison Manager for the Wairarapa.

I grew up getting my boots dirty in Eketahuna and have spent time working on farms from Akitio to Pirinoa. My roots are in this region, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

I have a background in farming and completed Ag ITO level 3 while training on a farm in Pongaroa.  I have a diploma in Veterinary Nursing and am a qualified Large Animal Technician. I worked in the veterinary industry for 10 years, and my passion was always the large animal work and the rural clients.

I have recently worked as a pastoral care provider on a program designed to prepare young people with substantial barriers to sustained employment after leaving school. The skills I have learnt will be a bonus when supporting the cadets with self-management, communication, resilience and other soft skills required to succeed in life.

I have two children aged 10 and 5, and my husband owns and manages a beekeeping company in Masterton. He is also on the Wairarapa College agricultural advisory committee. We both have the passion for passing on knowledge to support growth in our community and take pride in watching young people learn and achieve their goals.


Jo Loe

North Canterbury Liason Manager

I left school to spend a year in South America as an AFS student before 
studying Early Childhood Education. After two years, I transferred to complete a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning and began my career as a primary school teacher.

Sport has always been a big part of my life, and I still enjoy playing 
tennis, squash and netball, as well as following the girls with their 

I enjoy being involved in our community and have had representative 
roles on our local school Board of Trustees and our local Community  Committee, and various administrative roles in different clubs.

After 24 years of teaching, I decided I was ready for a change and was 
extremely lucky that an opportunity to join the GFF team came up.

Jane Medlicott

Geraldine Liason Manager

Hi, I am Jane Medlicott, the Geraldine Liaison Manager.


I live up the Rangitata Gorge, near Geraldine on my partner’s farm, Rata Peaks Station where we farm sheep, beef and deer.


I am a trained Primary Teacher and am stepping back from the classroom to spend more time on the farm and in my new role with GFF. I do relief teaching around the Geraldine area and am also running an Agricultural Club at Mayfield School, one day a week.


I grew up on sheep and beef farms in the North Island around Wanganui, and moved down South 11 years ago. In my spare time I enjoy horse riding, jet boating and spending time with family and friends.

Kathryn (Ping) Horn_edited.jpg

Kathryn (Ping) Horn

Kurow/Omarama Liason Manager

I am the GFF liaison for the Kurow/Omarama area.

I was attracted to this role as I enjoy working with people and seeing the students grow in knowledge. 

I am married to Chris; we have three school-aged children. We have an agricultural spraying business based in Otekaieke, serving the upper Waitaki Valley and Hakataramea Valley. 

I have always been involved in the rural sector; I grew up on my parent's farm in Waiau, North Canterbury. I have worked on farms, am a trained vet nurse, managed the local rural supplies store, and am now a casual employee at Farmlands Kurow. 

I know the challenges of finding suitable staff, and I am excited to see where these students journeys will take them after their two years on the Growing Future Farmers programme.

Amy Priest

Southland Liaison Manager

Hi, I’m Amy Priest and I am the Liaison Manager for Southland.

I grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Western Southland and I have a background in rural banking, hospitality management and administration. My husband Joel and I have recently dived into an equity partnership on a sheep, beef and deer farm in Northern Southland along with our two children aged 7 and 5.

I am really looking forward to supporting the students and building relationships with them and the farm trainers. I'm excited to see the students increase their knowledge and progress over the next two years.

I enjoying keeping fit and training for adventure racing as well as cooking, gardening and spending time with my family & friends.


Our Partners


We would like to thank the following major sponsors.

Donny Protectorate Committee