Sheryl Haitana

New Zealand was born on the back of immigrants and the dairy industry in particular is still being made stronger by immigrants to this country.

Welsh couple Marc and Nia Jones became NZ citizens last year and were finally able to enter the Dairy Industry Awards in the Share Farmer category.

They are contract milking 970 cows for Sarah Elliott in Tokoroa and employ three fulltime staff, all from India originally.

Entering the awards has been a goal of Marc’s since he read about the awards in the NZ Dairy Exporter in his home country.

Born and bred in Llanrwst, Wales, the couple met as teenagers. Nia is off a family dairy farm and Marc grew up in town but has always had a strong passion to work on the land. He had a passion to go sheep and beef farming in Wales, but he couldn’t see a pathway to farm ownership.

He travelled to NZ for a holiday after he left school and fell in love with the country and returned to work for Sarah, Margaret and Ian Elliot for two years.

Meanwhile Nia studied sports and physical education at a Welsh University. The couple got back together when Marc returned to the United Kingdom.

Marc wanted to work on a similar grass-based system to NZ so the couple took a job in Scotland converting a sheep and beef farm. The farm owner was quite progressive and a great mentor, Marc says.

Nia bought Marc a subscription to the NZ Dairy Exporter magazine as a birthday present while they were in Scotland.

“He loved it so much I wouldn’t get any attention for a few nights after it arrived in the mail.”

The couple later moved back to work on a farm in their home town contract milking, an unusual option in the UK.

They found themselves at a crossroads – stay and progress their farming career in Wales, or take a gamble and move out to NZ.

“We figured it was now or never. We didn’t have kids so let’s just go for a couple of years,” Nia says.

They moved to Southland from Wales – which they used to get teased about moving out to a similar climate, but they loved Southland.

Marc worked as an operations manager overseeing two farm dairies milking 1000 cows, while Nia worked on another dairy farm as herd manager.

“We’ve both been really lucky to work for great people in the industry,” she says.

Marc and Nia had kept in touch with Margaret and the late Ian Elliott and their daughter Sarah who is sharemilking for the family farm. The Elliott family offered them the potential of contract milking if they gained residency.

It was the bait they needed and they moved back to Tokoroa to be senior managers for one season until they got their residency and were able to step up to a contract milking position this year.

“We’ve always been keen on the people side of farming, and enjoy the larger scale farming,” Marc says.

“People are our skill – that’s our gift we have from god.”

They are focused not on just their progression, but being able to help train people to help them step up and progress in the dairy industry as well.

“Our mission statement is ‘Growth to enrich lives’. We want to grow and enrich other people’s lives along the way. All the boats will rise in a rising tide, we will grow and you will grow.

“That’s our goal – to be a role model. We would like to use our expertise to help other people.”

Even though they haven’t made it yet as farm owners, they still hope they can inspire others to progress along the way.

They run a very flat structure onfarm, with Marc doing all the same jobs as the rest of the team.

“There is no big boss, everyone does the same jobs, we trust them and give them responsibilities.”

They work hard on building a great culture onfarm and using the right language is a big part of building a healthy team culture, Marc says.

“It’s our team, our colleagues, we don’t use the term staff or workers, we use appreciating words. I hate the word ‘worker’.”

They were happy to pick up the DairyNZ Human Resources Award at the awards evening because they see people as one of their biggest strengths.

It’s a team first approach, they have multiple team building events throughout the year and socialise together a lot, Nia says.

“We are all away from our home countries. We are each other’s family. We’ve all made sacrifices to be here and we are all on a journey together.”

They are going into another season with the same team of people onfarm, which they hope is a testament to having a great team culture and helping their team to progress alongside them.

Marc and Nia have another two years in their contract milking agreement and then hope to have enough equity to get a 450- cow sharemilking position for three years.

They are thankful to have an amazing relationship with Sarah and Margaret Elliott and hope they can continue working with them as they grow their own business.

They want to grow to a 600-cows sharemilking role for three years which would make the deposit they would need to buy a farm.

Through entering the Dairy Industry Awards they’ve being able to set that timeframe, Nia says.

“We’ve learnt a lot about our business, we have always had goals, but now they’re more specific.”

One of their goals is to not be average – to be better than average so they can grow quicker, and they hope to achieve that through being successful in the awards. They are very active with DairyNZ discussion groups and workshops and have used Dairy Connect to constantly improve their knowledge.

Their ultimate goal is to own a farm in NZ and one in Wales so their children can go between both countries.

They speak Welsh to their 18-month-old daughter Etta and are expecting their second child in July.


DairyNZ Human Resources Award, Federated Farmers Leadership Award, Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Marc and Nia Jones

Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award, LIC Recording and Productivity Award, Westpac Business Performance Award – Sarah and Aidan Stevenson

Meridian Farm Environment Award, Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Monique and John Dickson.