Sixty years of calf club celebrated

A young Riddell with his star performer

The Hamilton North Agricultural Group celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Avril McBeth takes a look at the group’s history.

First known as the Ngaruawahia Agricultural Group, the first meeting was held on April 7 1952 at the instigation of the late Mr Ralph Birdsall, a delegate from the then South Auckland Education Board.

The first Group Day (then called a Field Day) was held at Ngaruawahia on November 3 1952, with another held the following year at Te Rapa School.

In those early years school pupils could enter the yearling that they had exhibited the previous year as a calf. Classes were much larger due to there being more farms in the area and larger families. In 1958 for example, entries of 158 calves, 17 yearlings and 22 lambs were recorded.

Several more schools joined the group in the 1950s, though in 1971 Ngaruawahia left the group as it became more of an urban school with very few pupils from farms attending.

1982 saw the inclusion of kid goats at the Group Day, held that year at Fairfield School. This school left the group in 1986, followed in 1998 by Te Rapa School, for the same reasons as Ngaruawahia. This left Gordonton, Horsham Downs, Puketaha, Horotiu, Te Kowhai and Rotokauri. Orini and Whitikahu Schools then joined in 1999.

Hamilton North Group is today one of the largest Agriculture Day Groups in New Zealand, and ongoing changes have seen the inclusion of ram lambs and beef calves to accommodate lifestyle block pupils and keep up the number of exhibitors.

Originally Group Day was circulated around the schools with a different school hosting the event each year. In recent times however, with parking problems and increasing urbanisation of some of the schools, the committee decided to hold the Group Day at Gordonton every year and circulate the organisation of running the day among the schools. This has proved to be extremely successful, as all the equipment can be stored at the one site, which is central to most schools and with ample parking.

Sadly in today’s climate of a four-term year, technology, TV and other activities plus the urban spread, it is getting harder to keep children interested in showing their animals.

Group Days are just one part of the organisation’s activities. The season starts with the Agriculture Days held at each school, followed by the Group Day at Gordonton, and culminating in the A & P show day at Claudelands in Hamilton.

None of this would be possible without the many hours of work by volunteers to coordinate these successful days, organise judging, set up and mow the exhibition rings, arrange meals for officials, and do everything else necessary for running these events. Some families within the Group have had members that have been involved right through, first as an exhibitor, then as a steward, and then a judge. Some have also served on School Calf Club committees, Group Day committees and been delegates to Waikato A & P Show Agriculture Group committees.

We must also be grateful to the parents who allow their children to participate and the many farmers who willingly supply them with animals. To all these people we owe a huge debt of gratitude as their contribution has been invaluable in keeping our group going to make this milestone of 60 years. Hopefully we will still be going strong to celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2027.

Congratulations to the Hamilton North Group, and may the Group Days at Gordonton School continue well into the future.

Another young Riddell and friend
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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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