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Fonterra Farmers' Study Trip a Success

2 June 2004

Fonterra Farmers' Study Trip a Success

The regional winners of the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Farm Business awards have just returned from a study tour of the United States, where they found much in common with their American counterparts.

"Farming systems may vary, but the issues farmers face seem to be the same from Hawera to Harrisburg," says Rahotu dairy farmer Donald Anderson.

As winner of the Fonterra Westpac Farm Business of the Year award for the Taranaki-Lower North Island region, Donald and wife Maree joined the other five regional winners for a Fonterra-hosted 12-day study tour of the US last month.

The trip was part of the build-up to the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards dinner, to be held in New Plymouth on 12 June, at which one of the six will be named winner of the national Farm Business of the Year award. The six will also vie for national honours in various performance categories, while other awards will be made to the RD1 Farm Manager of the year and the winner of the Holden Lifetime Achievement category.

A highlight of the black-tie function will be a performance by international diva and sometime Pihama dairy farmer Dame Malvina Major. MC for the evening is former World Public Speaking Champion David Nottage. Tickets are still available through the competition website, www.dairyexcellence.co.nz

Donald says it was great to be able to compare notes with the other regional champions, and with Fonterra staff overseas.

"They [his fellow farmers] were a great bunch to travel with," he says.

"We all have our own strengths - and our own way of doing things - but what we have in common is that we are all in this industry because we want to be. We don't have to be dairy farmers, but we all believe in the business and want to be part of it."

It is an attitude mirrored by Fonterra staff in the US, who, Donald says, are as committed to the company's success as the farmers themselves.

The group also visited three US dairy farms. While some of their production methods were strange to New Zealand eyes, there was much that was familiar, says Donald.

"Those farmers are concerned about labour shortages, about fluctuating commodity prices, about the urban community imposing its way of life on its rural counterpart - in that sense it was just like being back home."

ENDS

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