Sunday, May 27, 2012

What, who and why

My name is Glen Herud and this blog is about creating my ideal dairy farm.  The dairy industry according to Glen.

After a brief run in with Robert Magabe's new minister of agriculture, my parents felt it was prudent to leave their birth place of Zimbabwe and begin a new start in New Zealand.

Starting again with no money and a young family they took a farm workers position in the Bombay hills. I grew up watching my parents move their way up the dairy ladder in the Waikato, from farm worker to manager, from contract milker to sharemilker then onto a larger sharemilking position and finally onto farm owner. It took them 11 years to progress from farm workers in 1984 with $1,000 cash and a 1976 Yellow Ford Cortina to owning a 350 acre dairy farm in Southland.

They did what countless people have done over the decades and they took part in a progression system that is the envy of many farmers around the world.  The NZ dairy system is unique in that it has the share farming system. This system has allowed people of any background, with or without a formal education, or capital, to become farm owners.  All you needed was a good attitude and be prepared to work hard. This system is what has made the dairy industry in NZ great.  In other countries like England, for example, there is a clear separation between land owners and non land owners, particularly in the the rural sector.  There is really very little opportunity for the tenant farmers to become land owners. 

With this in mind I left school and my plan was to follow in my parents footsteps.  I scraped into Lincoln by the slimmest of academic margins and studied agriculture.  After three years I graduated with the academic heavy weight qualification of a Diploma in Farm Management.  I didn't know it at the time, but the real value of a tertiary education is that it teaches you to think and to analyse things. I can't remember really learning anything about soil science or plant science but I learnt how farmers make money and more importantly how to evaluate things and how to think.

So I left Lincoln and decided that I would not take part in this wonderful dairy system, I decided that the downsides of the dairy industry were too great.

I left the dairy farm and started a retail business in Invercargill.  After 8 years of being off the farm I can reflect and think, did I make the right decision? The 2000's were boom years for the dairy industry, land prices went up, we had record milk payouts and farmers were scrambling to find good people to help them, offering all sorts of partnership opportunities. 

I think I would be slightly better off financially if I had invested in the dairy industry, simply due to the increase in the price of land. But I don't regret my decision for a minute. 

This blog is about dairy farming, its about fixing the downsides of the industry and its about addressing the issues and creating a dairy industry that New Zealanders best people want to be involved in and be proud of. It's about thinking differently and getting a little bit radical.

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