The major winners at the 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards were announced at a gala dinner in Pongokawa last night.

Matt Barr and Genna Maxwell won the region's Share Farmer of the Year title at the TECT The Action Centre and said one of the strengths of their business lay in being fourth-generation custodians of a family legacy.

The couple also counted one of their greatest challenges as one of their biggest achievements.

"Losing dad in 2014 was one of the toughest things we've had to live through," Barr said.

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"Mum and I were thrown in the deep end to fill dad's boots and steer the farming operation.

"Although it was heartbreakingly tough we learnt so much and had huge support from our rural community to get where we are today."

The couple are lease farmers for Viv Barr on her 110ha 410-cow Awakeri property.

Barr holds a Diploma of Farm Management from Lincoln University and Maxwell a Bachelor of Law from University of Otago.

While Barr had entered the awards programme previously this was the first year they had entered as a couple.

"Genna works off-farm as a lawyer and works on-farm in her spare time. Entering as a couple made sense as it was another great way for Genna to integrate her skillset into the business and gain a wider understanding of the farm business operation," Barr said.

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17 Mar, 2019 8:00am
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The couple won $9050 in prizes and three merit awards.

Both aged 31, they enjoy the outdoors, working with animals and the diversity each day brought.

"You're not 'just a farmer'. You're a plumber, drain layer, mechanic, welder, heavy machinery operator, vet, all-round labourer, human resource manager, financial planner, negotiator, counsellor, cook, cleaner – the list goes on," Barr said.

The couple say another strength of their business was the cost control of feed through 'in-house production' and full control of young stock.

Their goal for the future was to fulfil their vision of a sustainable, diverse business and a balanced life.

Runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition were Jeremy and Melissa Shove, who won $4387 in prizes and four merit awards.

 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Manager of the Year Janamjot Singh Ghuman. Photo / Supplied
2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Manager of the Year Janamjot Singh Ghuman. Photo / Supplied

The couple are contract milkers on Kay and Michael Watkins 116ha Whakatāne farm milking 385 cows.

Previously a commercial fisherman in the Southern Ocean, Jeremy made the career change to the dairy industry seven years ago with Melissa still working part-time as a sports massage therapist while looking after the HR and financial side of the partnership.

"At certain times of the year, dairy farming allows you to have an awesome work-life balance and especially with having our two children now (Quinn, 3 and Zara, 1), it's awesome to be able to get away from the farm and go hunting, fishing and even camping in the summer."

The couple said one of the challenges they had overcome was managing and organising staff.

"We have learnt a lot and now have good systems in placing using our Human Resources tool kit and utilising technology," Melissa said.

The other big winners were Janamjot Singh Ghuman, named 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Manager of the Year, and Alex Sainty, the 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Ghuman came from a farming background in India and became eligible to enter the awards this year because of the visa criteria changes.

He won $6725 in prizes plus two merit awards and is farm manager for Rex and Lesley Brown on their 65ha Te Puke farm milking 280 cows.

Alex Sainty was named the 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year. Photo / Supplied
Alex Sainty was named the 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year. Photo / Supplied

The 26-year-old holds a Diploma in Applied Technology from the Wairakei Institute of Technology and Primary ITO National Certificates in Agriculture Level 4 and 5.

"I am a technology enthusiast and I would like to contribute to the dairy industry through farm-related technologies and innovation," he said.

After overcoming the challenges that are associated with moving to a new country, Ghuman was proud to have improved his understanding of dairy farming in New Zealand and his English-speaking skills.

"I'm interested in public speaking and attend the Tauranga Toastmaster's Club."

Sainty and won $5250 in prizes and two merit awards.

He was third place getter in the 2018 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee category.

"Entering the awards has enabled me to test my knowledge and understand my strengths and weaknesses and work on them," he said.

"I have proven to myself that I am more capable and confident than I believed.

"I chose farming as a career because I wanted to do something that had a diverse range of work and provides a lot of opportunities to progress. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was young, and dairy farming has allowed me the chance to prove myself," Sainty said.

The 21-year-old is assistant manager for Peter Overdevest and Tania Akehurst on their 390-cow, 132ha property at Galatea.

Sainty said he was proud of his successes in the Dairy Industry Awards so far and of completing Level 3 Primary ITO courses.

Future farming goals included moving to a farm manager position on a large dairy unit in the 2020/21 season.

"I love being able to work outdoors and with such amazing animals. The cows really do become your 'beast' friends!"

The Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 8 at 1286 State Highway 30 at Awakeri.

Further details on the winners and the field day can be found here.

Share Farmer Merit Awards:

- DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Matt Barr and Genna Maxwell
-Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Jeremy and Melissa Shove
- Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Jeremy and Melissa Shove
-Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Jeremy and Melissa Shove
- LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Matt Barr and Genna Maxwell
- Meridian Farm Environment Award – Cameron and Jessica Lea
- Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Matt Barr and Genna Maxwell
- Westpac Business Performance Award – Jeremy and Melissa Shove

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

- BlackmanSpargo Rural Law Ltd Employee Engagement Awards – Joseph Braybrook
- King Farm Services Ltd Leadership Award – Ashley Weld
-The Business Results Group Ltd Feed Management Award – Janamjot Singh Ghuman
- DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Ashley Weld
-Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Ashley Weld
-PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Janamjot Singh Ghuman
- Westpac Personal Planning & Financial Management Award – Hayden Purvis

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

- Bay of Plenty Regional Council Farming Knowledge Award – Alex Sainty
- Pioneer Brand Products Community & Industry Involvement Award – Alex Sainty
- Bay of Plenty DIA Communication & Engagement Award – Justin Bell
- DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Justin Bell