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Northland Regional Farming Winner Announced

April 15, 2001

Innovative Kauri dairy farmers take top regional prize in Farmer of the Year

Excellent human resource management, goal-setting and productivity gains have earned a Kamo couple the Northland regional title in a National farming award.

Geoff and Jo Crawford have won the Northland regional title in the inaugural WestpacTrust NZMP Farmer of the Year 2002 competition.

The Crawford's were also the recipients of two performance awards - The Dexcel Human Resources Award and The Pioneer Brand Forage Products Business Performance Award.

Their win was announced on Saturday April 13 at the WestpacTrust NZMP Farmer of the Year 2002 Northland regional awards dinner at Whangarei's Forum North Conference Centre. Geoff & Jo will compete for the national title in Hamilton on June 29.

The Crawfords' life is busy - together with their large dairy farming operation they are involved in two other contracting businesses, and make a significant commitment to family and community activities.

It was their staff's enthusiasm and support that encouraged them to enter this year's WestpacTrust NZMP Farmer of the Year.

Jo Crawford says good staff relationships are vital for the business and we work hard to ensure this is the case. We like to see our people take hold of an idea, feel some ownership of it, and go for it."

"Farming is our passion - it's not our job. And when you have passion for something coupled with good people, it just becomes easy. In fact it's a pleasure.

"We could not have achieved this award without our excellent staff, our manager Phil Schutt, his assistant and son Andrew Schutt, and milk harvester Russell Galley," says Jo.

Geoff, 34, and Jo, 37, have three children, Tim, 11, Adam, 9, and Kaitlin, 7, and farm 404 cows on two adjacent properties near Kauri - a 75 hectare block and a 123 ha block. Over the last three years they have increased production by 60 per cent and are expecting to achieve 153,000 kg milk solids this year.

The award's three judges agreed the Crawfords' outstanding efforts in staff management were important in the context of the award.

"They consider the needs of their staff, and provide the motivation to succeed and help them to reach their goals. The opportunity is there for staff to further their education and skills through courses."

The judges were also impressed with Crawford's use of balanced goal-setting to plan their future. "This assists in identifying opportunities and measuring the performance of the business."

The Crawfords' business objectives are to milk 1000 cows (target: 400,000kg milk solids), work on the business not in it, repay debt quickly to ensure other opportunities are not missed and to continue to learn through courses, discussion groups and mixing with peers.

Their personal goals are to provide a good education for their children, to be involved in their lives for as long as possible, to have a long, fun and happy marriage, to continue to improve their home environment, enjoy and create memories for their family , have a fit and healthy active lifestyle and travel as much as possible.

"Geoff and Jo complement each other well with their different skills and make an excellent team," the judges commented. "They draw on surrounding expertise and recognise the importance of high cash flow in their early years that helped them to achieve farm ownership. They continue to show a willingness to learn."

Geoff has studied farm business management and has Trade Certificate in Dairy Farming. Jo is studying towards a Diploma in Agriculture and is studying business management this year.

The runners-up to the Northland regional award winners were Evan and Sherleen Smeath of Hikurangi.

"The regional finalists represent a group of farmers who have achieved excellence in all areas of their businesses. The awards process demonstrates that excellence and enables the cream of the crop to share the information with other dairy farmers," says Tony Bradley, WestpacTrust head of Agribusiness in the North Island.

"It is farmers such as the award finalists and winners who promote a positive profile for the dairy industry in New Zealand and help other farmers improve their productivity as well driving the industry to meet the 4 per cent target."

Several Farmer of the Year Performance awards were also announced at Saturday's dinner. These included:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Dairy Management Award: Evan and Sherleen Smeath, Hikurangi Dexcel Human Resources Award: Jo & Geoff Crawford, Whangarei Ecolab Product Excellence Award: Evan and Sherleen Smeath, Hikurangi Pioneer Brand Forage Products Business Performance Award: Jo & Geoff Crawford, Whangarei AnchorMart and Town and Country Agri Centres Environmental Integrity Award: Michael Foster, Tapora.

The Westpac Trust NZMP Farmer of the Year 2002 is a premier award that attracts and recognises New Zealand's very best dairy farmers.

"Our farmers are world leaders in on-farm productivity and this, along with our quality focus, gives us a competitive edge in the marketplace," says award chairman and Fonterra Co-operative Group director Gerard Lynch. "This competition is about recognising the cream of the crop, and sharing their expertise across our industry."


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