Rangiora Technical Sales Rep Kiel Wakeham supports about 85 Fonterra suppliers in the Waimakariri, Rangiora, Oxford and Sefton areas.
Right now, irrigation is top of mind for most of the farmers Kiel works with.
“Here in North Canterbury we had a good start to the season but, at this time of the year, irrigation is critical. And timely advice around fert, chemical and autumn regrassing can be a big factor in maximising the back end of the season and setting up for the next,” says Kiel, whose passion for agronomy is certainly put to good use.
“I like talking to farmers around feed and looking at better and more efficient ways of doing things,” he says.
Kiel’s respect for efficiency was no-doubt honed during his ten year career with the New Zealand Defence Force; eight years in the Royal New Zealand Navy, then two in the wider defence force.
Afterwards, he returned to his hometown of Oxford to work on a dairy farm for a few years before a stint with PGG Wrightson as the irrigation service manager. He also worked at LIC as a sales and relationship manager working with farmers all over the country.
“My role with Farm Source has given me the opportunity to work with the farmers in the area I live. I really enjoy being out and about on farm with our local farmers,” says Kiel, who has been in the role for just shy of a year and has established solid working relationships already.
“Farmers can call you for anything, I find if a good relationship has developed then farmers will trust that you can give them good advice or get the best advice for them. On any day I could get calls around weeds, new grass for challenging paddocks or even seeing if I’m nearby to help tow their ute out of the ford when the river’s a bit deep,” he says.
Because TSRs are often the first port of call for farmers, Kiel says they need to be up-to-speed on a broad range of topics.
“There is such a wide variety of subjects that a TSR is expected to know, or at least be able to quickly find out! Almost every day I’ll be calling vendor reps or researching something new. Having the support of vendors as well as our wider Farm Source technical team is great and having an engaged group of staff across a wide range of services can add real value on farm,” he says.
Looking back on his first year in the role, a highlight for Kiel was growing maize for a farmer who previously had never used or grown it before.
“After a nervous start due to a late wet season and lack of sunshine, both the hybrid for maize and forage maize for summer feed have been some of the better maize crops in the region. The result was one happy farmer,” says Kiel.
Married with a 7-month-old son, (“I don’t sleep much, #431 AM!”), in his spare time Kiel likes hunting and fishing and is looking forward to taking his son along when he’s a bit bigger.
“I still play cricket and rugby, but after playing for so long it might be time to change to golden oldies. It takes me a wee while to recover these days,” jokes Kiel.