Award success a triumph over adversity
Melissa and Jeremy Shove had a bad run of luck leading up to their entry in the 2019 Bay of Plenty Share Farmer of the Year competition.
Both Jeremy and their main worker broke their legs in separate unrelated incidents putting them out of action.
This left Melissa to run the farm they are contract milking on with the help of relief workers while both she and Jeremy were trying to put their competition entry together and bring up their two children Quinn 3 ½ and Zara 1 ½.
This makes the fact they achieved runner up as well as four merit awards – Leadership, Dairy Hygiene, Business Performance and Safety, Health and Biosecurity – even more impressive.
The 116ha effective farm located in Awakaponga near Edgecumbe milks a herd of 385 crossbred and Friesian cows. The farm belongs to Melissa’s parents Kaye and Michael Watkins who have owned the property for nearly 30 years.
Melissa, a qualified sports mas-sage therapist, returned to the farm with Jeremy, who comes from a commercial fishing background, to take on a manager job for three years.
They are now in their second season contract milking.
So what are they doing on their farm that won them four merit awards?In terms of dairy hygiene they take a meticulous approach to providing information on how to keep everything ticking along as it should.
There is a book in the shed documenting all their shed processes, a shed diary which is also available online and laminated cards have been stuck onto the walls at key points with a checklist to remind workers what they should be doing at every step of the process.
“I’ve made it dummy proof,” says Melissa.
“Anyone can walk into our shed and milk or put a wash through the milking plant.”
Studying for a Diploma in Agribusiness has helped Melissa to improve their health and safety procedures and policies.
In entering the competition, they also spent a great deal of time analysing their business, which helped them set realistic goals; to go 50:50 sharemilking in four years and to take a share in land ownership in 15 years.
The couple have also been strong leaders in their local community, having been involved in Taneatua Squash Club as club captains and on the committee and Melissa coached the Whakatane High School hockey team and is still involved in playing hockey in Whakatane.
They have also shown leadership in the rural community organising a regular potluck dinner with other young farmers in the area, many of which have returned to help run family farms just like Jeremy and Melissa have.
Matt Barr and Genna Maxwell, who won the 2019 Bay of Plenty Share Farmer of the Year competition, are also part of this group.
“The idea came after the Edgecumbe floods. We were in our first year contract milking and we found our production down and that we were generally down in the dumps,” says Melissa.
“The group now numbers about 19 and we have six to eight weekly catch ups.”
“It’s good for mental health as, especially through winter, it’s easy to get engrossed in farming and it’s good to break things up a bit and have a yarn with everyone to see how they’re going,” adds Jeremy.
“It makes you not feel alone to find others are having the same struggles.”
They say they are fortunate that Kaye and Michael are on hand to help out when they need them.
“They know where we want to be with our business and they want to help us to get there,” says Melissa.
“So it’s all about working together.”
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