Wed, Apr 26, 2023 5:00 AM
The major winners in the 2023 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards say being caretakers of the land is a pretty special job to have and are proud to be part of a food-producing nation.
Ricky and Maria Johnson were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year Category at the annual awards dinner held in Shantytown last month. The other big winners were Gurpreet Singh, who was named the 2023 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year, and Ireland Cain, the 2023 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year.
The Johnsons are 50/50 share milkers on Robb and Jane Macbeth’s 194ha Maruia farm milking 420 cows. They won $8,000 in prizes and three merit awards.
“We entered the Awards for the first time over 15 years ago and we entered again this year after hearing about the changes and it’s been well worthwhile so far,” they say. “The feedback and taking the time to look at how and why we do things has made us think about where we are going and how we are going to get there.”
The couple’s family are now young adults and they say their biggest success was being able to bring their family up on a farm and having a tight family unit. “When you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work. The boys enjoy coming home to help on the farm and have a BBQ tea.”
Ricky and Maria cite their team as one of the biggest strengths of their business. “We have a great crew with Kerrin being with us for 6 seasons and Isaac for three seasons. Being able to retain staff is awesome and makes life and the farm much easier.”
“The importance of having health and safety on-farm to keep us all safe is always evolving and the job is never done.”
The weather – be it drought or flood – has proved challenging for Ricky and Maria, as has sending their boys away to college due to living remotely.
A positive attitude helps during the harder times, with their animal’s providing motivation. “Cows are amazing and it’s a great life on the farm,” says Ricky. “It’s great to be able to work and have family around while you do.”
Future farming goals include farm ownership on the West Coast. “We’re excited about the future of Westland Milk and supplying quality milk to the them. They produce fantastic products and we may be a bit bias, but we think they produce the best butter in the world,” say the couple.
“There is nothing quite like going to the supermarket and seeing a product on the shelf that you helped produce.”