Charlie Pearson reports on the 2018 Massey Agriculture Awards Dinner.

The best and brightest of Massey’s top rate agriculture, horticulture and equine programme gathered at the uni’s Ag Awards Dinner recently. In total, there are over 400 students across all levels, a number that has been steadily growing over the years. On that October evening though, the focus was on the most promising faces this programme has fostered, the third-year students soon to complete their studies and who of them would take away the nine most prestigious awards of the night. This leaving class shows real hope for the wider agriculture industry; almost all those who have been looking for employment for 2019 have received it. Furthermore, the days of ag being a man’s business are surely receding, seeing a class of students split 50:50 boys and girls.

I spoke in-depth with some of the winners from the night, to learn more about them.

Massey Agriculture Student of the Year – Sam Pike

This isn’t the first time Sam has appeared in one of our stories. In a recent Dairy Exporter article, we covered a Massey University research project investigating the growth and meat characteristics of dairy-beef cattle/bobby calves. Sam Pike has been involved in this research, as part of his Masters. He’ll continue with the work until June 2019. “The research project involves on-farm data collection, lab work and preparing a thesis” he says. After his Masters, he hopes to get into a graduate programme.

Life as a postgrad student, Sam says, provides a sense of freedom and flexibility that he didn’t have before. And he makes the most of his time. “Last year’s award winners James Robertson and Kate Stewart really taught me the value of getting involved outside of the classroom and how lucky we are at Massey to have such a close group of ag and hort students.” With that firmly in mind, the 21-year-old has taken up the role of Treasurer for the Massey Young Farmers committee, been involved in organising and facilitating Future Food Network sessions and become an RA (Residential Assistant) in the Massey halls of residence. Of the latter, he says: “It has been rewarding getting the first-year students passionate about agriculture and getting them involved in activities such as Young Farmers and Hort Society.” Off campus, he also volunteers with his local Rural Fire and Civil Defence team in Rangitikei.

The Bulls local found postgrad study an opportunity to become more of a leader, engaging with people, especially students in year groups below him. “I am really grateful for the supportive friends which I have made at university, who have allowed me to achieve the things I have. To be recognised by them means a lot to me”. Being named the 2018 Student of the Year then seems to make sense, as his wide-ranging influence throughout the Massey agriculture community has made him a respected face.

Sam’s goals for the future are simple, but they’re also ambitious. “My main goal is to help create a positive and sustainable future for the agriculture sector. I’m also keen to see technology play a bigger role in improving production and environmental efficiency on farms.” To get there he hopes for a farmer-facing role in extension or consultancy, but he also believes in taking each opportunity that he is presented with, wherever that may lead. His favourite part of agriculture is the diversity of the work, and he hopes his future career allows him to experience all of it.

The Bulls local says he was humbled to be named Student of the Year: “The recognition meant a lot as it wasn’t just an academic award – I felt as if I had achieved my goal of keeping a good balance between social life, professional development and academics.”

William Gerrish Memorial Award – Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith has lived all his life on his family’s dairy farm in North Waikato, and it’s clear to see he’s always been passionate about the industry. At a young age, he says: “I was able to tell people who each cow was in my parents’ 420 cow dairy herd from a distance without looking at her tag just by what she looked like and would be able to give you a run down on her history in the herd.” Bradford says he always knew he wanted a career in agriculture, and unlike many things, that hasn’t changed.

The William Gerrish award is presented to a student who shows “outstanding performance in Farm Management”. This year, that prize went to the 20-year-old, in the third and final year of a Bachelor of AgriCommerce majoring in Farm Management. Bradford says he was really surprised to be given the award, because he’s never been the sort to win things; “I have never been the smartest or most intelligent person in my class.” But he’s very grateful for the recognition.

Brought up in the small farming area of Mangatangi, located just south of Pokeno, Waikato, Bradford took every chance he could – outside of school – to be on the farm with his dad and grandad. “This developed into me taking a keen interest in particular in the numbers side of things and the breeding of cows … I enjoy choosing which bulls go to which cows to improve their gene pool and overall productivity at mating time.” His passion and drive is still as strong as ever today; “I take an interest in following the genetics of my parents’ dairy herd.” Like his dad, his goal is to one day run his own farm and use his leverage to change society’s perceptions of the dairy sector, showing first-hand that the industry is a sustainable one.

In the meantime, the Massey Young Farmers member has secured a job with the Food Safety team at Fonterra, as a Milk Quality Advisor, starting in December. Going forward, he is keen to be involved in dairying as it approaches and adapts to change, balancing the growing strain of sustainability and economic viability. “Massey has prepared me for a career in the agricultural sector through the knowledge provided to us from an industry level.”

Reflecting on his award, Bradford says: “The recognition proves that hard work and determination do not go unrewarded in the long run and someone will eventually notice, not that you really need the recognition to signify this. The personal satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your best is the ultimate reward in the end.”