From teacher to learner to teacher again – Waikato Dairy farmer Mike Garrud’s transition from secondary school teacher to tiller of the land brought new learning opportunities along with new uses for past learned skills and knowledge.
Teaching science and biology for twelve years and holding a senior position at Matamata College, Mike was presented with an opportunity to work on his wife’s parent’s dairy farm business – Walsh Enterprises Ltd.
“At that time I was ready for a change and my father-in-law was looking at employing someone to learn the business and ease his workload. Susan said – well Mike’s looking for a change – could you work with him?”
With no previous exposure to farming, Mike started from fresh, learning on-the-job along side his father-in-law John Walsh.
Mike was surprised at just how much crossover there was between teaching science and biology and farming.
“Initially I thought I knew nothing about farming and wondered how it was going to work? But then I realized science and biology helped with farming more than I thought it would – understanding the soil science and fertiliser as well as the animals.”
Soft skills in organisation and people also came into play, as did a good understanding of information technology – increasingly an important part of farming life.
Mike and Susan are now in their 7th season overseeing two farms and a small run-off, with Mike holding the position of operations manager.
The 180ha home farm is just 10 minutes from Morrinsville in the Kereone area and home to 430 friesian cows.
The other farm is 10 minutes away between Matamata and Morrinsville in the Walton area – at 100ha it’s a smaller operation milking 230 friesians.
Both farms are looked after on a day-to-day basis by contract milkers, with Mike responsible for accounts, sorting out the farm’s needs, organising meetings with reps, sorting out fertiliser as well as physical work on the farm doing a lot of the repairs and maintenance.
With three young sons added to the family since moving on to the farm, Adam 5 and four year old identical twins Ryan and Thomas, Mike has absolutely no regrets about his move to agriculture.
“We’re busy but farming has allowed quite a bit of flexibility. If I was still teaching I’m not sure I would be able to help out quite as much. Balancing family life with farming has been brilliant and just watching the boys grow up on the farm,learning and absorbing.”
Last November Mike made another major step and took the mantle of Federated Farmers Chair for the Morrinsville area, which includes about 2000 farmers – mostly dairy but also beef and goat.
“It’s a role I didn’t know too much about to start with but I was told that there was an opportunity to get involved in some of the policy making, seeing the changes that are occurring, being ready for them and communicating with the local farmers to get their ideas about the issues that are effecting them.”
A key objective for Mike is to enhance farmer engagement with Federated Farmers – encouraging more people to take an active interest and attend meetings.
“Like all voluntary clubs there’s a decline and disengagement of members because they’re too busy or not interested in doing it. That means there will need to be some face-to-face contact to re-establish that engagement.”
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