Throw open the windows and let in the fresh air. I’ve been sitting in the editor’s seat of the Dairy Exporter for almost six years now and every time we put together the Cream of the Crop, Dairy Industry Awards special I always second-guess my life’s journey and wonder if I should’ve pivoted early in my career to become a dairy farmer?

Growing up on a sheep and beef farm, I was all about the sheep and lambs and wool and riding horses – but I did actually do a couple of stints on dairy farms during my Massey Uni Bachelor of Agri Science degree. The first was milking about 100 cows in a small eight-bail walk-through shed in eastern Taranaki, with lovely young farm owners battling against interest rates in the early 20% range. I really enjoyed the cows, not so much the interminable fencing jobs on the doer-upper farm!

The next practical stint was on a larger farm which was great, but I did have a bout of glandular fever at the time, so I probably wasn’t the most dynamic farm assistant.

So having read this issue, I ponder how different life might have been if I had stayed in the ’Naki, embraced the gumboots and forged a path in the dairy industry.

A sliding door moment.

In terms of building a business and a career, this magazine is overflowing with go–getters and cow-lovers and people dedicated to making it in the dairy industry. Their stories of starting with nothing (many of them totally new to the country, the industry and the language) and building assets and careers are inspirational.

Impressive too, is their dedication to the health and wellbeing of their cows and of their co-workers and staff. Gone are the 12:2 rosters, skinny cows and high empty rates – bobby calves are on their way out too.

These young farmers are talking about looking after staff, going the extra mile for the environment, focusing on building equity but also on the advancement of their team and the health and efficiency of their stock. And many of them are women farming very successfully on their own account, which is exciting to see.

While older and more cynical farmers are perhaps prone to complaining about too much regulation, new taxes and unworkable government initiatives, it’s refreshing that many of the younger award winners stating that despite the challenges faced, they see a path of adapting to changing rules and problem-solving to mitigate adverse effects as key to continuing creating their businesses and fulfilling their dreams.

“We see ourselves as the new generation coming through and strive to be leaders in the industry who will drive it forward in the most sustainable and ethical way possible,” said Jono and Kerri Robson, 2022 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Share Farmers of the Year.

They are also blessed to have record high payouts to support their initiatives.

Whether it’s wide-eyed innocence or youthful positivity, it’s refreshing to see.

The world is changing, we have to evolve – many of the winners in this year’s Dairy Industry Awards will show it is not only possible, but also profitable.

Congratulations to all the winners and good luck for the National Awards,

Jackie Harrigan