Young Farmer top prize in sights after placings

James Lawn is enjoying his new job as DairyNZ consulting officer for South and West Otago. Photo by Jane Dawber.
James Lawn is enjoying his new job as DairyNZ consulting officer for South and West Otago. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Winning the National Bank Young Farmer Contest is one of the goals of James Lawn.

Mr Lawn (23), who recently joined DairyNZ as a consulting officer for South and West Otago, is heavily involved with Young Farmers.

He came third in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty regional final and fifth in the Taranaki-Manawatu regional final, but was keen to take it a step further, win a regional final and compete in the grand final - with the ultimate aim of taking the top prize.

Originally from Taranaki, where he grew up on a dairy farm, Mr Lawn said he was always going to pursue a career in agriculture.

He graduated from Massey University with a bachelor of applied science degree, majoring in agriculture and rural valuation.

In his second year at university, he was named agriculture student of the year, an honour usually given to a final-year student, and became the first second-year student to do so.

As well as his good marks, he believed his involvement with Young Farmers probably contributed to the award. He helped build the Massey Young Farmers Club's membership from three to 150.

Before getting the job with DairyNZ, he had already had contact with the organisation, having received a DairyNZ scholarship while at university.

He had also previously worked in the south, in the summer of 2009-10, for the Gardyne family at Gore.

Coincidentally, Pete Gardyne was runner-up in the Young Farmer Contest this year and he is Otago-Southland Young Farmers regional chairman, while Mr Lawn is vice-chairman.

Now living in Balclutha, Mr Lawn is also a member of the South Otago Young Farmers Club, which has about 20 members, and he is keen to see that number grow.

His involvement with Young Farmers had meant that he had made friends throughout the country and it also provided an opportunity to meet industry representatives.

Taking part in the Young Farmer Contest was an opportunity to push himself, learn new things, cope under pressure and also have fun throughout the process, he said.

In the future, Mr Lawn is keen to take part in the likes of the Nuffield or Kellogg leadership programmes.

While Mr Lawn enjoyed his time in the Manawatu, it was time to move on and he was enjoying living in the South.

He enjoyed making new friends and becoming immersed in the community.

"I've always said to myself, 'when you get comfortable, you've got to move'."

He was "absolutely loving" his new job, where his main role was creating an environment for farmer discussion.

DairyNZ represents New Zealand's dairy farmers and was created in 2007 through the merger of Dairy InSight and Dexcel.

In the future, Mr Lawn hopes to own his own farm - and not necessarily a dairy farm.

His "dream farm" would be a 600ha property, of which 200ha was sheep and beef, 200ha was arable and 200ha was dairy, he said, with a laugh.