He's the unofficial mayor of Tarata, and now Bryan Hocken is officially a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).
Bryan was made an MNZM in the Queen's Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours List 2022, for services to agriculture and the rural community.
Announced on Monday, June 6, it's an honour he describes as having left him "blown away".
"I wasn't expecting it. When I saw the email telling me, I just couldn't believe it."
He's talking in a hushed voice down the phone for the interview, as he hasn't told anyone the news.
"That's the rule they tell you, you can't tell anyone before it's announced, so I haven't even told my wife."
It's unusual for him to keep a secret from his wife, Helen, with whom he celebrates 50 years of marriage later this year, and it's just as unusual to hear Bryan talking about following rules and doing what is expected. The hushed voice isn't normal for Bryan either.
"You've got to stand up and speak out. Make yourself heard."
And over the years, that's exactly what Bryan has done. He's led protests and marches, campaigned and advocated for a range of rural and farming issues. He was a lead organiser of the nationwide Federated Farmers campaign to oppose an animal emission tax, known as the fart tax, being imposed on farmers and has stood up for farmers against other things such as the United States Lamb Tariff, by which Bill Clinton wanted to put a tariff on all New Zealand lamb. Not to mention successfully stopping government plans for the compulsory microchipping of farm dogs and his, also successful, protests against proposed land access rules on farmland.
"A lot of this stuff, if you don't stand up and speak it just gets done, you've got to have a voice, and have to have an army behind you as well. Whatever you sow, you reap. There's no point turning up to a battle if it's just you, you've got to have the backing."
Getting the backing is another thing Bryan is good at, with his innate ability to make every feel like a friend, whether he has known them all his life or just met them two minutes ago.
"You've got to have personal contact with people, relate to them, get on their side and walk alongside them."
He's walked alongside a lot of people over his farming career which has included a range of leadership and advocacy roles as well as still working on the 465-hectare sheep and beef farm with wife Helen, a farm which their daughter Sarah and son-in-law Jarred Coogan are now the majority shareholders of.
From hosting political figures, diplomats and people from all over the world at the farm to promote New Zealand Beef and Lamb, to organising a bi-annual Beef+Lamb New Zealand Taranaki Big Dine-In, Bryan is always making connections and forging links with the people around him.
"It's not the grades you make, it's the hands you shake," he says.
He's been president of Taranaki Federated Farmers, councillor of Beef+Lamb New Zealand's Western North Farmer Council, chairman of the Inglewood Veterinary Group and is a life member of the Tarata Sheep Dog Trial Club as well as patron of the Tarata Hall Committee. Not to mention the unofficial, but well-earned, mayor of Tarata role.
So are there any highlights in particular?
There's not one particular success that is better than another he says.
"They all mattered, everything I take on matters in some way."
When it comes to taking anything on, be it organising a party for a visiting sheep scanner from Wales to bussing hundreds of farmers down to Wellington to protest on the steps of Parliament, there's one thing he always focuses on, he says.
"I don't like to fail. It has to be good and it has to be a success."
He's looking forward to sharing his news with family and friends on Monday. It's them, the friends, family and wider community all around him, that are the backbone of everything he does and aspires to, he says.
"Because they are all part of it, you can't be a leader or do things if others aren't supporting you. My wife Helen, she has always been with me, helping and supporting, same with the kids and all the other people in the groups and clubs, they are all good people. Don't count the days, count your friends."
In the meantime, he's followed the rules and kept it a secret. Well, almost.
"I told the dogs when I got the email, they won't tell anyone else."