fbpx

Rebecca and Brent Miller: A journey fueled by passion for people

To dairy or not to dairy?

About 15 years ago we found ourselves at a crossroad. There had been several dairy farming positions – small farms, large farms, family and corporate, North Island, South Island, lots of technology and no technology. 

Moving that had taken our small family to the brink of breakdown, loss, and burnout.  From working 2.30am to 7.30pm at night, 28 days on two days off roster, and reactionary circumstances, we decided to sit down, plan and think strategically about where we were going with dairying. 

A big question was: Do we continue down the dairy farming path or look outside and into other industry? Building perhaps?  Rebecca grew up in the dairy industry and had shifted many times with her parents and family and did not want the same unrooted life for our children. 

We both came to the same conclusion after soul searching and knew that our skills and experience was in dairy, and at the heart of it we still saw an opportunity on many levels. 

Reflecting on what we enjoyed, what we would like to achieve in our farming operation, our guiding principles, values and those in our next employer, strategically planning our next move, documenting our negotiables/non-negotiables, researching the industry widely as to who supported, coached, and mentored their staff, where we could learn our identified skill gaps and create a deep foundational knowledge at all levels of the business. 

We wanted to remain confident that there were some amazing employers out there, who were willing to share their knowledge, and who also had similar values and principles.

Finding the right fit

Through deep research across industry, we found the right fit for us – Spectrum Group.  They opened their books and knowledge to us, training, mentoring, support, and confidence when we needed it.
 

They were absentee owners and over the years gave us the inclusion, autonomy, and ability to make strategic, tactical, and operational decisions with their guidance. Quickly realising the opportunity, we knew we could grow our knowledge with the Spectrum Group.

Working with the Spectrum Group for about five seasons, our skills and abilities went far beyond what you would normally obtain in a dairy farming business.Through benchmarking and having the 16 farms analysing and sharing transparent information, the power of knowing our numbers and applying pressure where needed was excellent. It made us very aware of the timing of decisions made, the ability to present a value proposition, calculate the return on investment and communicate this clearly.

We will always be grateful for this foundational knowledge and have added our own flair, learnings, intention, and observations to our business, MilkIQ Limited.

Out in the community

During the time with the Spectrum Group, Rebecca also connected with Dairy Woman’s network.

She started her own group in South Canterbury, growing to 50 ladies, and then to Mid Canterbury to convene for another four years. 

Leading the group was a highlight and gave Rebecca a taste of facilitating and leading groups, but it was a chance to be shoulder tapped for many projects.

One of which has been underpinning a lot of what we strive to achieve within industry today.

The Dairy Fatigue project,

led by Lynda Clark, past DWN CEO.  The primary objective was to discover what the drivers were for long hours on the dairy farm, what were the core reasons, and could we dig deeper than the obvious.  Through the four years on the project, we undertook deep analysing of our on-farm systems, the drivers behind everything we did with our own team – both tangible and intangible.

Today, we use this knowledge and have been able to identify and apply this to get our teams to an average of 41 hours per week.

Doing well by both people and numbers

Our next growth opportunity was when we met with Andrew and Rachele Morris, through a mutual connection, consultant Jeremy Savage. He saw the right fit between what both parties needed and wanted in the future.

Andrew and Rachele, are forward thinking, take care of their people and love to see people grow and succeed. These are values that we also covet, and share, with our staff and community.

In the seven years that we have been with the Morris’s, we have grown from Manager, Contract Milker, Variable Order sharemilker to Equity Partner, and two seasons now running both River Terrace Dairy Limited and Ealing Pasture Holdings Limited, totally 2600 cows in Mid Canterbury.

We learnt that as leaders of the team, the environment we provide on farm is important. It is the behaviour, way we interact, speak, the words we use, the intonation and timing of informal and formal communication, the way decisions are made and by who, are some of the underpinning intangible factors on a high trust, high performing and connected team.

All team members are valued for their skills, expertise, and experience. Everyone has something to bring to the team, and we have found this type of inclusion invaluable in retaining and creating an engaged culture on farm.  Which has also created virtually zero turnover across both farms.
 

We have found knowing our numbers to be an essential part of our story. 

Benchmarking has been a way where we can prove, identify, and clarify our position quickly, then mitigating as we need to.  This has been through MacFarlane Rural business, Dairy Business of the year and DairyBase.  Over two years, we have managed to win eight awards through the Dairy Business of the year and will enter again this year. It has given us confidence and has also given confidence to our partners, Andrew and Rachele as well.

This year also saw Rebecca as a finalist for the Dairy Woman of the Year for recognition of work carried out in industry through Dairy Woman’s Network and DairyNZ – dairy connect, projects, Federated Farmers. Then our own business Milk IQ a finalist in the Ministry of Primary Industry Good Employer Awards, Employee Development award national finalist.

These were amazing to be a part of, and we loved connecting and representing our people, and business at this level.

Adding more layers ...

We created and trademarked the word FARMILY™ to try and capture the community on farm, our farming family, this was quickly recognised around industry, and Rebecca was invited to speak around the country in March with Dairy Woman’s network, Make Time for your People workshop.

Just last week, we were invited to a dinner with MP Meke Whaitiri, to connect with industry.  Being featured also in the American version of Dairy Exporter, Hoards Dairyman, in April 21, was awesome.  We have realised that some of the issues we face in New Zealand, are overseas as well.

Rebecca was in Kellogg course 38 in 2018 and completed her research on “Is there a need for an Information Platform to collaborate Primary Industry events”, – resulting in the development of Land Events limited, which is in its final stages of development.  You will see the framework now online, exciting to finally be at this stage. 

Brent completed his Kellogg project in course 41 in 2020 on “What is the true cost of transience to the New Zealand dairy industry?” This was further investigation on a question we had held for a while, ever since the Dairy Fatigue project with DairyNZ.  He was delighted to find that 78% of turnover can be prevented.

What the future holds?

A vision held dearly is that we have a thriving, connected and collaborative primary industry that is celebrated by everyone, and we are proud to pass onto our next generation.

 

To do this we see ourselves collaborating and creating our way through developing agile tools, while also promoting others in industry.   Farmily™ and MilkIQ Limited and milkiq.online forum is part of our microcosm tools for farming, identifying the tangible and intangible drivers on any sized farm, for direct application. Land Events is a big driver for connection and collaboration of events, jobs, and knowledge at macro level.

Farming Families is developed with rural professionals for our community wellbeing, we are beginning this in Mid Canterbury with two quiz nights and a ball on the 12th of June 2021.  All proceeds are retained within the community for further events to connect.

Talking with Ministry of Primary Industries and other industry organisations now for the development of an Agribase Innovation Centre for the South Island, to have a collaborative home for entrepreneurship, ideas, and think tanks, based in Ashburton.

Brent and Rebecca love what they are doing right now as a team, striking on many fronts.

We are stepping up and into our passion for people and we do so proactively. We continue to move forward for our vision to connect, collaborate, and communicate at all levels within industry. If you have any ideas and want to collaborate with us, please get in contact, we’d love to chat.

Time to celebrate the role our primary industries play

Nuffield Scholar Rebecca Hyde

Article is sourced from NZ Farmlife’s ‘CountryWide’ February 2021 magazine

Written by: Annabelle Latz
Photo by: Andrew Kyburz

Time to celebrate the role our primary industries play, New Zealand

Let’s sing the praises of the skills and value of our primary industries, as we do for our New Zealand sports teams.

This is the vision of farm environment consultant Rebecca Hyde, who operates under her own brand TFD Consulting Ltd, which is short for ‘The Farmer’s Daughter.’

Based in Oxford, North Canterbury, she launched her business in 2020. Much of her work week involves talking with farmers about the ever-evolving raft of regulations, a somewhat new and often complex business tier within our traditional ‘Number 8 Wire’ agricultural sector.

Over the past few years health and safety, employment and water regulations, to name a few, have become permanent features on a farmer’s business plan, directed from central government.

“A lot of farmers don’t understand all of it. It’s all come at once,” says Rebecca, the former nutrient management advisor at Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown.

Rebecca is not shy to remind farmers that these changes are here to stay.

“The regulations will never stop, and collaboration to grapple these changes, while remembering the ‘people’ element of farming, is a must.”

Rebecca says while there is regulation involved with her business, there is also a large element of best practice.

While some farmers need more critical conversations than others, Rebecca says some don’t get why things have changed, or don’t want things to change.

“My advice is, either make the changes and I can help you, or the next person might not be so nice.”

Born and raised on a sheep and beef farm in Scargill, North Canterbury, farming has always run strong through Rebecca’s veins, and she has never imagined working in any other sector.

“One thing I will always be is a farmer’s daughter. And I really feel privileged to sit down at a farmer’s table and help them now.”

Within her advisory roles, Rebecca has appreciated how in tune she has always been with farmers.

“You just get that mum and dad are trying to get the shearing done, need to get to kids’ sport, will be drafting sheep in the dust, picking up calves in the rain… You just get stuff, and farmers appreciate this.”

What appealed to Rebecca about starting her own business was embracing the challenges, and having that natural instinct of what is happening on the land.

In 2017 Rebecca was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, which she utilised to investigate globally how collaboration works well between groups in the agricultural sector, and how well New Zealand was doing comparatively.

Her travels took her to 13 different countries including Brazil, India, America, Canada, Denmark and China.

“One of the things that came across really clearly was that most groups saw the bigger picture of working together.”

Rebecca believes New Zealand at the time was not as strong on collaboration, as there was still plenty of segregation between farming industries: dairy, arable, non-irrigation, irrigation, sheep and beef, etc.

But this has changed, and collaborative groups such as the Primary Sector Council and the development of the Red Meat Sector story with Taste Pure Nature are great initiatives that encourage conversation, ideas, and solutions for the primary sector as a whole.

Rebecca cannot emphasise enough the importance of continued collaboration and communication, and the complexity of farming that must be acknowledged.

She talks about the three layers of farming: The ground layer is the physical farm, the middle layer is the farm management system, and the third layer is the people layer.

“And that is what makes a farm unique, the combination of all of them. And farmers must work out where that sweet spot is.”

Time and time again, Rebecca has sat in front of industry ‘experts’ with her fellow farming community.

“Farmers are expected to show up and contribute, but they’re not considered experts. I think that is something that’s really been missed – that people element.

‘One thing I will always be is a farmer’s daughter. And I really feel privileged to sit down at a farmer’s table and help them now.”

Farmers have the data and the systems – they are the people living that land and system. Farmers know their capabilities, their limitations.”

Rebecca admits there is no argument that the pressures on the environment are increasing, which is human-driven. Modern day regulations have put restrictions on farmers being able to make changes on their own farm, at their own discretion. Nowadays a farm environment plan, a nutrient budget, and in some instances, a land use consent, are required.

Rebecca certainly isn’t anti regulations, which she sees as tools for raising the floor, but agrees with farmers they can be confusing.

“Farmers know the practical, and they might not need the practical changes (such as fencing off waterways), but they might just need to know the new regulations.”

Should collaboration and the ‘people’ side of farming continue to flourish, the future of the New Zealand agricultural sector is a bright one.

“Agriculture is a big business in New Zealand, and it creates business minds.”

Rebecca believes good farmers are open to different types of experts; for example dry land farmers farming for moisture and using soil moisture monitors.

She says Covid-19 has really changed how people are looking at their own health, and sees farmers as being a big part of this as food producers.

“I would like to see a future where New Zealanders are proud of what farmers do. Where someone in central Auckland is singing the praises of their New Zealand- grown food, because they are proud of what we can produce, like we are proud of our sports people.”

Grazing Partnership a win: win – Phil Weir, 2020 Nuffield Scholar

Phil and Megan Weir have designed a system to increase dairy grazing income by adding value

Article is sourced from NZ Farmlife’s ‘CountryWide’ January 2021 magazine

Written by: Sandra Taylor
Photo by: Emma McCarthy

By adding value to the dairy support package they offer, Waikato farmers Phil and Megan Weir are generating returns on a par with a bull beef system.

For the past three years, the couple has been farming 250 hectares (the cattle platform is 180ha) in Te Pahu on the slopes of Mt Pirongia, in the heart of Waikato dairy country. They run breeding ewes, trading cattle and dairy heifers and have developed a grazing package that generates a premium and delivers a product that benefits the client’s dairy operation by ensuring they have well grown heifers entering the herd.

Phil, who is a  2020 Nuffield Scholar and sits on Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Farmer Council, says they have been grazing heifers for dairy farmers Craig and Kylee Mora for three years. Their relationship has grown to one based on trust rather than formal contracts and an understanding that the couple will guarantee the heifers hit their pre-mating and calving target weights, irrespective of seasonal fluctuations in growth rates.

Read the full article  here: http://readnow.isentia.com/ReadNow.aspx?EcA1sSy2e6ut

 

The Knowledge Hub

Over the past 12 months GroundHQ have been working on pulling together a podcast series called The Knowledge Hub focused on connecting farmers and growers with information and knowledge on the topical issues facing agriculture.

The Knowledge Hub is about creating a platform for informed conversation, and ultimately helping to create a path for environmental excellence for New Zealand’s farmers and growers.

Check out the first episode on regenerative farming (in a series of 8 podcasts that will be released every fortnight between December and March) featuring  our very own 2016 Nuffield Scholar Sam Lang.

His research was on the same topic and you can access the report here.

Click here to access the full podcast series.

Feel free to share this content across your own platforms, encourage conversation, and keep supporting  the New Zealand Food & Fibre Sector.

The Knowledge Hub is brought to you by Ground HQ, powered by Landpro.

Open Farms is back and looking for hosts

Strong connections between farmers and urban Kiwis are essential for a thriving agri-sector. The work of farmers should be valued and our customers need to understand what it takes to grow food.

We know that most people are disconnected from their food – so let’s do something about it.

That’s why Rural Leaders is a channel partner of Open Farms – a platform to reconnect urban Kiwis with our food, land and farmers via a nationwide open farm day on Sunday February 21, 2021.

Click through to their Visit a farm page.

We’re supporting Open Farms to find open day hosts, by connecting them with farming leaders like yourself. If you are farming close to urban areas around Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga and Dunedin and your keen to be an Open Farms host – You can register to host or request a call back on the Open Farms website.

Open Farms is a nationwide initiative to reconnect urban Kiwis with our food, land and farmers.

Few reasons why you should host an Open Farms Day

 

  • In March 2020, 3,500 Kiwis visited 45 farms across New Zealand for the inaugural Open Farms.

  • Your Open Farms event can be as small or as large as you like – farmer hosts choose the size, format and focus of their event.

  • The Open Farms Host Handbook answers all of your questions, including health & safety, activity ideas and tips for using your event to promote a product or diversification. Leave all the marketing and registrations to Open Farms – you just focus on running an event and sharing your farming story.

  • Post event research shows that just getting urban folks on farm, changes the way they think and feel about agriculture, and their own actions in the food system.

Rural Leaders partners with Whanganui & Partners to build rural leadership in Wanganui region

Rural Leaders are delighted to announce our new partnership with Whanganui and Partners to help grow regional leaders and entrepreneurial capital in Whanganui’s food and fibre sector.

As part of the sponsorship, two scholarships will be granted to Whanganui residents, or those scholars who directly contribute to Whanganui’s agribusiness sector, who are undertaking a Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme or a Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

Find out more about the new partnership here.

Step up in 2021 – be part of the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme in Tai Tokerau!

Take the next step in your development and do the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme in Tai Tokerau in 2021.

Course dates: 4 May – 21 October  

APPLY NOW
Applications close on 31 January 2021

Click here for more information on the Kellogg Tai Tokerau Course

2020 Review and look ahead to 2021 with Chris Parsons & Lindy Nelson : Sarah’s Country Interview

Chris Parsons, CEO of Rural Leaders and Lindy Nelson, Founder of Agri-Women’s Development Trust joined Sarah Perriam on Sarah’s Country to talk about the year ahead and what to expect for 2021.

Sarah’s Country Interview : 16th December 2020

Click here to watch the full Sarah’s Country show on demand.

Listen to the podcast here:

Step up in 2021 – be part of the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme in Tai Tokerau!

Take the next step in your development and do the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme in Tai Tokerau in 2021.

Course dates: 4 May – 21 October  

APPLY NOW
Applications close on 31 January 2021

Click here for more information on the Kellogg Tai Tokerau Course

Chris Parsons Introduces 2021 Nuffield Scholars : Sarah’s Country Interview

In this interview on Sarah’s Country Chris Parsons, CEO of Rural Leaders introduces the 2021 Nuffield scholars and talks about how they will navigate their global research with covid-related travel restrictions.

Chris also touches on the 2020 Nuffield Scholar insights that were presented at the 2021 Nuffield Awards Ceremony, following the work the 2020 Scholars have been doing on the sector impacts of COVID-19.

Listen to the podcast here:

Siobhan O’Malley and Wayne Langford – win Primary Industries ‘Champion Award’ 2020

Congratulations to two of our Kellogg Alumni – Siobhan O’Malley and Wayne Langford – who were the winners of the 2020 ‘Champion Award’ at the Primary Industries Awards on 23 November in Wellington. 

Siobhan and Wayne were selected as winners of this category for their outstanding efforts as Founders of their National Charity ‘Meat the Need.’

What is the Champion Award?

“The Champion Award is intended to enable the primary industries’ community to recognise the efforts of one of its own. This is an award for the grassroots unsung hero, the genuine ‘good bugger’ who has championed their rural community and their industry. The award goes to an individual who goes beyond their own farm or business, to help others with their own challenges either in times of extreme need or in times of daily necessity.” (Copy sourced from 
https://primaryindustries.co.nz/awards/categories).

The Primary Industries 2020 ‘Champion Award’ category is also sponsored by Rural Leader’s Service partner Federated Farmers.

Siobhan and Wayne are the Founders of ‘Meat the Need’ a national charity that supplies much needed meat to City Missions and food banks. The Meat is donated by farmers, processed, packed and delivered to those most in need.

Find out more about ‘Meat the Need’ and donate here.

2020 Nuffield Scholars Insights

Stories from the year of living precariously

Presented at the Nuffield 2021 Scholarship Awards Ceremony
3rd November 2020, Wellington

The Nuffield NZ 2020 Scholars have had conversations with food and fibre producing leaders about the impact of COVID-19 on the primary sector.

From these conversations our 2020 Scholars (Tracy Brown, Ben McLauchlan, Phil Weir, Edward Pinckney and Shannon Harnett) have worked together to deliver four collective insights around supply chains, innovation, people and strategies.

Watch the 2020 Scholars deliver their insights in the video below.

Tracy Brown

“Conversations with food and fibre producing leaders about the impact of COVID 19 has helped us gain insights and become critically reflective thinkers”

Nuffielders 2020

Our year of living precariously

For the first time, the New Zealand Nuffield Scholars have worked together to deliver collective insights.

The collaborative learning model focused on ‘Critical Reflective Practice’ providing significant insight and a framework for more focused individual efforts in 2021.

Greater opportunity to connect locally has been valuable and should be incorporated into future program delivery.

Ben McLauchlan

“Resilience is the capacity of a system, enterprise, or person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.”

Andrew Zolli

Insight one: Proven supply chain resilience

The World Trade Organisation forecast that world merchandise trade would be reduced by between 13% and 32% in 2020 (WTO, April 2020).

  • NZ has been able to continue to trade goods, despite local and international challenges.
  • We have outpaced other export focused countries.
  • Our supply chains have been tested and found to be resilient.
  • The demand for our food has ensured prioritisation and flow of key imports.
  • The primary sector has been a vital lifeline in keeping the NZ economy intact and lessening the economic impact.

Phil Weir

“The threat of going hungry became real for many people for the first time in their lives”

KPMG, The ‘now’ normal’ future

Insight two: Growing disparity between the haves and have nots

We have all been affected by COVID-19. Some of us to greater or lesser extents. It has not just been the spread of the virus that has followed an exponential growth curve.
  • Technological innovation has quickened.
  • Increasing inequality between the haves and have nots.
  • The degree and obviousness of disparity raises significant risks to social license and export markets

Edward Pinckney

“Chaos is exhausting, structure and certainty keeps us sane”

Insight three: Challenges around fit for purpose leadership

Risk related to COVID-19 escalated rapidly. Previously it was not high (or even present) on the risk matrix for many businesses. Some leaders were caught out, “frozen with indecision,” unable to make decisions and move forward. Others excelled!

The following are attributes of great leadership in a crisis:

  • Communication to create certainty
  • Culture of experimentation
  • Creativity and agility
  • Values based

Shannon Harnett

“Lock down gave me time and space to evaluate my ideals around how I live. This was an opportunity I had not had in 30 years.”

Business owner

Insight four: Adding value by moving from value to values

The rise of the ‘Conscious Consumer’ is a growing trend and COVID 19 has accelerated this.

We need to further understand the drivers behind consumers preparedness to buy and consume sustainably grown, values-based produce.