It’s been 40 years since Southland log truck driver Pam Bennett began her long association with Nightcaps Young Farmers.
She joined the club when she was 15.
“I signed up when I was working at Wether Hill Station out the back of Ohai,” said the 55-year-old who lives at Manapouri.
“We used to hold our meetings in the old railway building at Nightcaps, before relocating to the Wreys Bush Hall.”
The former champion shearer and wool handler was later elected the club’s chair.
“When I took over, the club only had five members,” she recalls. “We launched a membership drive and grew the club to 25 members within 12 months.”
Nightcaps is now one of the country’s oldest NZ Young Farmers clubs and celebrated its 500th meeting last Saturday.
To mark the milestone, a special meeting and dinner were held at the Nightcaps Town Hall.
“We had about 130 people attend the dinner and a further 20 turned up once the band started,” said club member Justin Oostveen.
“The formal meeting only took about 20 minutes to get through. We kept things moving to keep everyone interested.”
The event was attended by current and former members, including Pam Bennett, who until the meeting was the club’s only life member.
“I made a lot of friends through my involvement in Nightcaps Young Farmers,” she said.
“I’ve kept in touch with some of them, but a lot of former members have moved away.”
The 500th meeting gave people the opportunity to reconnect and celebrate the club’s longevity.
Former member Ian Tippett spoke about his time in the club. He joined in 1965 and was the first NZ Young Farmers member to go on an exchange to Australia, where he met his future wife Janet.
Willy Buchanan, Simon Greer and Hayden Peter were all honoured with life memberships.
“I think Pam’s pretty happy she’s no longer the club’s only life member,” laughed Justin.
“Willy is a former club chair who gave up a lot of his time to help with fundraising. Simon acts as club chair during AGMs and helps out when we have events because he has a bar manager’s certificate. Hayden never says no if we ask him to lend a hand.”
Pam still vividly recalls the ways the active club used to raise funds when she was on the executive.
“We used to make $500 penning up sheep for shearers competing at the Southland A&P Show,” she said.
“The club made a similar amount helping at the Opio Dog Trials. We’d also tail and crutch lambs.”
“I remember we used to split a heap of firewood and cart it to Queenstown to sell,” she said.
The club had a regular exchange with the NZ Young Farmers club in Te Kuiti in the King Country.
“We’d travel up and have a good look around other people’s farms. It was a great way to see another part of the world,” she said.
The club’s members got involved in debating, which Pam said made her nervous because she was worried she might swear, which she “was good at”.
The milestone meeting was emceed by Paul Turner. TSL, Rural Livestock and Diacks Nurseries provided sponsorship and the Nightcaps Volunteer Fire Brigade helped out during the evening.
The event would not have happened if it wasn’t for the efforts of the dedicated organising committee.
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