‘Too short’ for pro rugby, Mark scores under the posts at NZ Dairy awards
Marc and Nia Jones’ passion for farm life was aptly rewarded when they won the 2019 Waikato Share Farmer of the Year award at the Dairy Industry Awards.
Hailing from Snowdonia National Park in North Wales, and now contract milking in South Waikato, Marc says that growing up he had a couple of passions in life.
“One was rugby and the other was farming. I was too fat and too short to be a professional rugby player and I always like to excel at whatever I do. So farming was the opportunity that I could excel at.”
While Marc grew up in a rural Welsh community, his parents were not farmers and Mark always felt envious of farming friends.
“It just seemed a very nice lifestyle. You know it was the association with animals, machinery and that family life. What I love is there’s always growth in the system. Spring is a beautiful time of year with new life – calves and lambs and the pasture starts to grow.”
Marc’s love for New Zealand and dairy farming started in 2007 during a six-month holiday to watch a mate play rugby.
During that trip Marc was introduced to Ian and Margaret Elliott, owners of the farm that Marc and Nia now Contact Milk on.
“I came out again in 2009 and worked for a couple of years on the Elliot’s farm till 2011 when I followed Nia back to Wales.”
Returning to New Zealand in 2016, Nia and Marc were working on a Southland farm when the Elliot’s daughter, Sarah, contacted them offering Marc the opportunity to work as farm manager on her parent’s farm the following season.
Marc says the offer came with the carrot that once residency came through the role would change to contract milker, which it did at the start of the 2018 season.
Located in Tokora near the Lichfield Cheese Factory, the Elliot’s farm has a 270ha-milking platform – home to 970 kiwi cross cows.
With Sarah Elliott the farm’s 50:50 sharemilker, three team members support Marc to operate the farm on a day-to-day basis.
“We operate as close to a fl at structure as we can,” says Marc.
“HR, leadership and culture development is one of my passions. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way but you learn and improve from those mistakes.”
When coming to New Zealand in 2016, one of Marc and Nia’s goals was to enter the Dairy Indus-try Awards but they were unable to do so till they gained residency.
When that came through, and with the blessing of Ian Elliott, the couple entered the awards in October of last year.
Ian passed away in January of this year after a short illness and did not get to see Marc and Nia’s success.
Marc says that Ian had been a good men-tor to him throughout his farming journey and the sudden loss was very sad, amplifying the meaningfulness of the award.
“The award process made us ask questions about our business – totally dissecting it. We met quite a few people along the way but we feel that we will meet a lot more going forward because of the networking opportunities. Having our name on the trophy will hopefully showcase that we’re well-rounded in our farming skills.”
In the short to medium term Marc and Nia are focused on growing their business and will look at going 50:50 sharemilking as their next move.
“The ultimate goals is farm ownership in New Zealand and we would like to buy a farm in the UK too so that we have two farms, giving our children choice – knowing that we love the two countries dearly.”
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