Clockwise from top left: Kate Denzel, William Robertson, Phoebe Topp, Matthew Day, Lucy Rowe, Teagan Graham.


Silver Fern Farms recently named this year’s six Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarship recipients, representing regions across New Zealand, as recognition for their ideas to further the sustainability of the red meat sector. Each received $5000 to go toward their careers in the red meat sector. This year’s applicants were tasked with answering the question: ‘Consider the sustainability challenges the red meat industry is faced with’ and present their solutions for farms, processing and in-market.

Here’s a little bit about each of this year’s winners:


Upper North Island – William Robertson

Background: William grew up on a dairy farm in Waikato, took part in 2016 Rabobank AgriLeadership Program, received DairyNZ Undergraduate Scholarship 2018 and won the 2017 National Young Farmers’ Stock Judging Competition.

Current study/work: Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Commerce – International agribusiness at Massey University.

What’s next: In August 2019 will be attending a University Exchange in Shanghai – he plans to study Mandarin, Chinese Politics, Chinese Culture and Corporate Finance at Shanghai University.

Career aspirations: William hopes to work in New Zealand’s trade and export industry, acting as a medium linking New Zealand agricultural producers to international consumers.

Solution to creating a sustainable future for the red meat industry: “Profitability through sustainability – through best utilising the changing consumer demand, New Zealand agriculture should work together, offering a sustainability certification to reassure consumers that the produce meets strict environmental requirements.”


Western North Island – Lucy Rowe

Background: Grew up on a farm in Manawatu Maire Farms. Lucy has always been passionate about the meat industry, which may have stemmed from reading the ‘Ag-Trader’ with her Dad every morning when she was young.

Current study/work: Bachelor of Science – Human Nutrition at Otago University.

What’s next: In 2020, Lucy is planning to do a Masters of Human Nutrition.

Career aspirations: In her 3rd year at University, Lucy took a paper which allowed her to undergo a research study based on the consumption of red meat on Vitamin B12 intake and status. From then Lucy knew she wanted to combine her passion for nutrition and farming – in particular, the muscle to meat conversion – in a future job.

Solution to creating a sustainable future for the red meat industry: “Developing recognition for sustainable farming practices, an award to encourage farmers to decrease farm gas emissions and in-plant ideas around the innovation around plastic packaging for our products.”


East North Island – Phoebe Topp

Background: She comes from a family who have farmed sheep and beef in the Wairarapa for four generations.

Current study/work: Bachelor of Commerce – Agriculture at Lincoln University. Also, the current vice chair of the Lincoln Young Farmers group. Over the past summer she worked at Siberia Station – “an incredible experience, getting to work on such a large scale operation and understand how the farming system works with large quantities of stock”.

Career aspirations: Phoebe would like a job where she works one-on-one with farmers to improve their business so that they can produce the best quality red meat under their individual conditions. Her long-term plans are to own and run her own farm.

Solution to creating a sustainable future for the red meat industry: “To develop a programme for our farmers to lead the red meat industry into a more sustainable future and use the programme as a marketing tool to educate and inform customers about this sustainable, integral approach to farming.”


Judges Choice – Kate Denzel

Background: Kate grew up on a lifestyle block in South Taranaki and has been around sheep and beef her whole life. She studied Law/Bachelor of Arts degree at Victoria University of Wellington before transferring to Massey University at the beginning of 2018.

Current study/work: Third year at Massey University, studying a Bachelor of Arts – majoring in History and Minoring in Social Anthropology. Kate has been employed by Silver Fern Farms for the past eighteen months, spending all her university holidays since 2017 working as a labourer in the Primary Butchery of the Waitotara Silver Fern F Plant.

Career aspirations: Kate is extremely passionate about furthering the education and careers of people who work in the red meat industry, which will help them contribute great value to the business, communities and the wider industry.

Kate is passionate about the human component of Silver Fern Farms’ sustainability strategy. She believes that the red meat industry encapsulates inclusivity, regardless of origin or gender. After working at Waitotara Kate has seen that the red meat industry allows for great personal growth and teaches various practical and social skills which are often transferrable to wider society.


Upper South Island – Teagan Graham

Background: Teagan grew up in North Canterbury.

Current study/work: Bachelor of Science – Environmental Management and Ecology at Otago University.

Career aspirations: Passionate about the environment, health, animals and food, her plans for the future are to be an Environmental Manager – finding a solution that increases production to meet the demands for the growing population, whilst minimising environmental degradation (freshwater pollution, greenhouse gas emissions etc.) all while making it just as profitable if not more profitable for New Zealand. Long-term goal is to set up a network of farmers and ecologists who can work together to create an integrated, collaborative, sustainable and admirable agricultural team.

Solution to creating a sustainable future for the red meat industry: “Regenerative agriculture and regenerative farming to improve the farmers’ needs and reduce environmental impact, a system of farming principles and practices that transforms the ecosystem. Also, collaboration with stakeholders for ‘social-learning’ and traceability to provide proof to consumers of farmers’ claims.”


Lower South Island – Matthew Day

Current study/work: Senior shepherd at Dawson Downs, Landcorp Farm in Balclutha.

Background: Born and raised in Auckland, with no rural relatives, Matt has cultivated a great passion and desire to be part of the red meat industry. He says “there’s nothing like getting to work outdoors every day with a pack of dogs, with happy healthy stock, in our rolling green paddocks.” He studied at Telford, Lincoln University for a Diploma in Agriculture with Distinction, and won a number of awards including the Beef and Lamb Scholarship (2017), Jeff Farm Scholarship (2017), William Telford Memorial Challenge Cup for Highest Aggregate of Marks (2016) and the Telford Graduates Association Award – highest aggregate from an urban background (2016).

Career aspirations: To be manager of a sheep, beef and deer farm by the time he’s 35.

Solution to creating a sustainable future for the red meat industry: Raised market access, volatility, food safety requirements as main challenges to red meat industry and presented ideas on how our plants, our people and our quality product would protect the brand’s reputation. “An on-farm sustainability solution could include looking into alternatives to cropping, including all grass wintering, wintering barns, sacrifice paddocks and mixed herb pasture crops or at last resort, dropping wintering numbers to stop the issues that can occur when crops are not managed as well as they could be.”