13 August 2018
Previous entrants and winners of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards often state how the competition process has enhanced their career progression and that the friendships they made are still as strong today as they were during the time they were competing.
One couple that agree with these statements is 2016 West Coast Top of the South Share Farmers of the Year Jesse Huffman and Renee Mason who still stand by a Dr Seuss quote from their speech at the Awards evening: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose”.
“So much has changed since we won. At the time, we were contract milking 970 cows on 310ha hectares in Springs Junction, and Jesse and I are now in our second season sharemilking for the Chinese owned Corporate, Theland Tahi Farm Group on 558ha hectares milking 1600 cows in Pureora,” says Renee.
“It’s been quite a change from our previous employment, and we’ve had to adapt a lot to fit in with the new company. These have been positive changes and we are still able to grow our business alongside Theland. We know the Awards process gave us the confidence, skills and abilities to do that.
Jesse and Renee often host a number of Chinese corporate businessmen and more recently the founder of Alibaba. “Last year we also had the Theland Central North Island Dairy Academy on the Ariki farm supporting the students in training by having them learn on-farm, they do some of their practical work on farm such as measuring crop yields, irrigation work and we also spend time in the classroom with them when our experiences are needed,” explains Jesse.
The couple say that entering the Awards was one of the best life-decisions they have made. “Winning was a bonus. Looking back now, the certificates and articles were a small aspect of the success. The bigger picture is the connections we made and the huge success that we have today.
We generate employment for other people, contribute to the community and the wider economy,” they say. “We are creating healthy business relationships, not just with the immediate Theland Tahi senior operations managers Chris Berry and Frano Staub as well as CEO Justine Kidd who collectively have a wealth of knowledge, but also with shareholders from China.
“We are in the privileged position of being able to show them what we do and why we do it,” says Renee. “I hope that more people have the same success that we have had with the help of the NZDIA.”
With entries for the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards opening on October 20th, it’s not too soon to think about entering. More information can be found at dairyindustryawards.co.nz.
The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra Farm Source, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy and Ravensdown, along with industry partner PrimaryITO.