Focus on getting school kids keen on farming at Palmerston North's Rural Games

With the borders closed the rural sector is having to work harder to attract workers.

This weekend 40,000 people flocked to the Rural Games in Palmerston North, where there's a big focus on getting school kids keen on farming.

It's a secondary school competition with no high jump or shot put in sight - instead it's speed milking, cow pat throwing and chariot racing.

"I like how it's more physical and we got to do more hands-on stuff," one participant says.

"I just like the challenge of it all," another says.

Some races are more challenging than others. But this fun event has a serious goal - to get people into rural jobs.

"It is a real concern. We've been short of shearers, we're desperately short of fencers. There are shortages all over the place," says Rural Games founder Steve Hollander.

With parts of the sector relying heavily on migrant labour, there's hope events such as this 'Clash of the Colleges' will help plug the gap.

"The border is closed at the moment and so there are opportunities to get more New Zealanders into the primary industries and that's the purpose of our campaign," says the Ministry for Primary Industries' Mark Patchett.

The past year has been particularly tough - it's estimated the sector is short of about 6500 workers. While some of the jobs do involve long hard hours on minimum wage, the industry argues there are excellent careers and opportunities up for grabs.

"And amazing jobs, you know, there are jobs out in outdoors, good money available, so why wouldn't school leavers get stuck into them," Rural Games founder Steve Hollander says.

And it's having an impact on some young people at the Rural Games.

"I like the challenges you face every day," one says.

"It's just cool to be in the outdoors," another says.

World champion shearer Rowland Smith is not mincing his words.

"I couldn't think of anything worse than being stuck in an office," he says. 

These students planning to get stuck into a rural life instead.