Words by Sheryl Haitana

Andrea and Blair Muggeridge are both structured people, so ensuring their farm has correct policies and procedures in place is second nature to them.
“I think our strength is we are both structured people. We are so driven and focused and we share a passion for farming. We are hard working and we seem to be a couple that never sits still,” Andrea says.
The Reporoa equity farm owners won the 2021 Central Plateau Share Farmer of the Year and five merit awards and $14,399 in prizes.
The couple won the title of Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year, in 2013, which they say got them into the habit of having structures in place, which made the awards entry process easier this time round.
“Most people when they first enter the Dairy Industry Awards or these types of competitions, they have to set up a lot of policies and procedures, but there was nothing we had to set up because it was all streamlined from eight years ago,” Andrea says.
“It did make us analyse our business and we did change bits and pieces, don’t get me wrong, but we didn’t have to set things up because we already had it in the motions of happening.”
They like to have things in writing to have the proof of what they are doing. Supplying Miraka requires doing a lot of paperwork for the Te Ara Miraka Farming Excellence Programme. It’s not an easy incentive programme, but it’s another framework which ensures the couple has structure around everything they do and try to achieve onfarm and they were able to use that information to showcase their story to the judges.

Rolling up their sleeves

Blair and Andrea won the DairyNZ Human Resources Award which was a reflection on their great staff retention. Three out of their four staff have been working for them for about four seasons now. They have three full time employees and one part time casual worker.
As farm managers they roll up their sleeves and do any and all jobs onfarm alongside their staff and ensure they follow all procedures they set and expect staff to follow.
“We all work together, Blair and I agree that we all share the workload, there are no real levels or jobs we don’t all do just because we are the managers.”
The 38-year-olds are both from Taranaki and grew up on dairy farms. Blair went farming after school before a slight detour to get a building apprenticeship before he returned to the land. Andrea worked in hotel management and sales before they started a family. She now works onfarm full time during the spring, and the rest of the year manages the paperwork and has a part time job off farm. She has also completed the Diploma in Agribusiness Management through Primary ITO.
“I’ve always grown up on farms and around TH Enterprises. Once we moved to Reporoa and had our second child, it was more viable for me to be hands on onfarm, which I love.”
The couple now have three children, Braxton, 9, Fletcher, 6, and Aaliyah, 4, who all enjoy the farming lifestyle. The children help out onfarm and Andrea acknowledges that they are fortunate to be in a family business where that can still happen.
“We wanted the same life for our children as we had, they help out and it teaches them a good work ethic. It’s hard with health and safety for sharemilkers to have children out onfarm, so we are lucky here.”

Family backed equity partnership

TH Enterprises is Andrea’s family’s business owned by parents Trevor and Harriet Hamilton. The company owns farms across New Zealand and has backed Blair and Andrea into the equity partnership.
Five years ago, the couple bought a 20% equity share in Golden Springs, the 285ha farm in Reporoa.
Blair and Andrea had to take out a personal loan and were guaranteed by TH Enterprises.
“I think we would struggle to get into a farm this size, even a little farm, without the back of TH Enterprises,” Blair says.
“We have great stakeholders and supportive people around us that can guide and lead us.”
Blair worked as farm manager for several seasons on Golden Springs before they bought into the farm in 2012/13.
Instead of being paid a bonus for farm performance, it was recorded and they received extra shares to reflect the unpaid bonuses, which is how they could afford to get to an immediate 20% share.
They have owned a rental property which they sold a few years prior to buying into the farm, and were also able to build equity by paying to inseminate the farm’s heifers and rear those calves. Blair is still paid a farm manager salary and their goal is to increase their equity by 2.5% every year through the farm’s profit and their share dividend going straight to an increase in shares. The couple have faced challenges along the way including reconfiguring the Golden Springs farm in their first year. The farm was being amalgamated from three small farms, so they had the opportunity to have a say in how the farm was set up. They are hoping to step up to the Operations Manager role for TH Enterprises’ three North Island farms in the next two seasons. That next career move was the push they needed to enter the Share Farmer category before taking that step.
“We always said we wanted to enter as share farmers,” Blair says.
Entering as equity owners was beneficial to looking at more of the financial side of the business.
“The entry process made us analyse our business, and focus on the financial section, which we think personally is our weakness,” Andrea says.
“It’s been an excellent opportunity for us to see the full potential of the farm.”
The couple are trying to have more input into the farm budget, which is usually set by the company’s chief financial officer (CFO), Blair says.
“We have a little bit of input in the budget but I’m getting more involved and I’ve started going to some of the board meetings so I’ve taken more interest in what our farm is doing and the overall business.”
Reporoa also has a really neat community to live in, with three primary schools, a playcentre and kindergarten, Andrea says.
“It’s an amazing community. They say it takes a village to raise a child and it’s a pretty cool village.”
Farming in Reporoa is great if you can handle all of the fog, Blair says.
“I think due to climate change, it’s not too bad here. The last few winters have been pretty mild so we’ve had a bit of growth, it’s getting through summer.”
The summers are getting quite hot and if they don’t have enough rain in December they struggle, Blair says.
“It’s a basic, pasture-based system. It’s a System 4 farm, but in a dry year we can end up a DairyNZ System 5. We’ve been able to get through the last couple of summers without having to put supplement in until middle or late January.”
The couple wish they could change public perception of farmers, especially around the subject of polluting waterways.
“Dairy farming is more of a lifestyle than a normal job. We are passionate about achieving our goals, not only personally but also for the farm.
“We love the freedom farming brings, the animals, the building of relationships with our team and the overall running of a business. They are proud of achieving equity partnership and their successful business with excellent overall production, and are excited about the future of the dairy industry.
“We would like our farm to be a multi-generation business which will enable us to support our children in their future business endeavours,” Blair says.
“I think the industry is looking pretty good at the moment, it’s a great industry to be a part of.”