“The calibre of entrants this year has been outstanding,”
Entries in this year’s New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards were up on last year, with the high standard of entrants impressing the judges charged with making final selections.
The top three winners at the national awards in Hamilton on 15 May were brothers Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj (Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa), who won the 2021 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year; Christopher Vila (Waikato), named 2021 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year; and Ruth Connolly (Waikato), 2021 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year.
“The calibre of entrants this year has been outstanding,” says Amber Carpenter, who chairs the awards’ executive team.
“All our finalists were great ambassadors for their respective regions. I talked with the dairy trainees about progression – where they’re at and where they’re going – and was blown away by these young people we have coming through.
They are all very capable and I’m looking forward to seeing where their future takes them.”
Having previously been on the winners’ podium herself after she and husband Fraser won the 2017 Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmer of the Year Award, Amber says it has been exciting to experience the awards from another perspective through her executive role. The couple are 50/50 sharemilkers on a Paparimu dairy farm.
“I come from a corporate background and had been looking for an opportunity to use my skills in a different way. I’m learning a lot about governance: it has made me realise this whole Awards Journey doesn’t end with winning an award – you can keep on going!”
A notable aspect of this year’s Awards ‘open my mind to different side of farming’ round was the diverse make-up of finalists. Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj’s on-farm presentation included drone footage from their family farm in Northern India to illustrate where they were from. Christopher Vila came to this country as an immigrant and has spent 13 years building an impressive dairy industry career here. Judges noted that many hardworking immigrants in New Zealand’s dairy industry are, however, facing hold-ups in their careers because of long delays on residency applications.
“I personally believe that one of the strengths of our industry is that no matter where you are from – New Zealand or from overseas – we learn from each other by bringing our various skills and experience to the table. All our winners are incredible people and very deserving of success.”
Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj, who are 50/50 sharemilkers on a 460-cow Eketahuna property, impressed the judges with their on- and off-farm leadership, engagement and performance. Christopher Vila, a farm manager on a 103.8ha family trust farm milking 341 cows in Ohaupo, has a strong relationship with the farm owners and was described by the judges as humble, competent and with outstanding attention to detail. Ruth Connolly stood out in the competitive dairy trainee category for her standard of presentation and passion for the dairy industry.
“Their success demonstrates where hard work and a positive attitude can take you. The opportunities are still there if you’re willing to work for them.”
Amber says this year’s awards also illustrated dairy farmers’ deep commitment to looking after the land for future generations and that sustainability in its broadest sense extended to mental health and achieving a good work-life balance, along with business and financial sustainability.
© Waterford Press Ltd 2021