New Zealanders need to regain their connection to the land, according to Daniel Eb, of Paparoa.
He has been named as a finalist in the inaugural Beef + Lamb New Zealand Awards in the FMG Rural Champion Award section.
Daniel is involved with the family farm at Paparoa as well as running his communications business Dirt Road Comms, where he describes himself as a communications specialist with a love for the land.
He said his nomination was a surprise, but he believed it was mostly for his work with the Open Farms project, which he started in 2020.
Daniel is passionate about the project, which aims to reconnect Kiwis with land, food and farmers.
"Open Farms is a space for honest conversations. It's about experiencing first-hand where our food comes from,'' he said.
"As New Zealand becomes more urbanised, many city people have lost that connection to the land. About 66 per cent of urban people say they have no rural friends or family. They might drive through the countryside on their way to the beach but they don't usually get to go on a farm.
"Forty years ago it was more traditional for city cousins to go on a farm to help out with a harvest or during holidays but that rural connection is now mostly gone,'' he said.
Daniel believed agriculture was one of New Zealand's societal pillars, making it more than just a business and with the potential to be a force for good.
"It's so important that I believe if it was to be removed then we would all fall down. There is the potential for it to be used in health and education so that people can regain their fundamental connection with nature.''
The health aspect of being in tune with the natural world was also important, he said.
Daniel said the Open Farms project had been so successful it was hoped it would become an annual event. Bookings were being taken for more events next year through the openfarms.co.nz website.
"We've run it for two years now, with 7,000 people visiting farms at 90 events all over New Zealand. We concentrated on finding farms that were within an hour's drive of urban centres.
"The concept was dangerously simple and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,'' he said.
As well as his "day job", Daniel is working on a project as a Nuffield Farming Scholar.
He is also involved in the family farm with his parents, Carl and Deborah Eb, sister Brittany and brother-in-law James Birch.
The family has owned the 141ha Paparoa beef farm for the past 25 years.
"Dad and James are awesome cattle men, but we are all trying to take a long-term look at what the farm might look like in the future if we try to strike an ecological balance while trying to generate solid returns.
"We are looking at every part of the landscape to see how it can best be used. Just because we've always done it a certain way doesn't mean it has to stay the same,'' he said.
B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor said the finalists were chosen by a team of judges from more than 100 entries in the eight award categories.
"The overwhelming feedback from the judges was about the high quality of the entries. They also commented that it was a privilege to gain insight into the fantastic work going on behind the scenes in our sector."
Mr McIvor said B+LNZ, along with Award partner Farmlands and other sponsors, have been thrilled with the response they have received for the awards in their first year.
"This is our first year, and the bar has been set extremely high in terms of both quality and quantity of entries. I did not envy the tough job the judges have had in selecting finalists and judges had expressed hope that many of those who did not make the finalists list this year will enter again in the future."
The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner at the Napier War Memorial Centre in February, after Covid-19 alert levels forced the postponement of the dinner from the original date of October 20.
Cara Doggett, of Wellsford, was another Northlander named as a finalist in the AgResearch Emerging Achiever Award.