Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year Kevin Smith on the
property he manages at Middlemarch. Photo by Justine Smith.
Kevin Smith loves farming and he enjoys passing on his
knowledge and skills to the younger generation.
Mr Smith, from Middlemarch, was recently named the AgITO
Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year at the Beef and Lamb New
Zealand sheep industry awards, beating fellow finalists
Telford (a division of Lincoln University) and Waipaoa
Station Farm Cadet Training Trust.
No-one was more delighted than the woman who nominated him,
AgITO's Rebecca Williamson-Kavanaugh, who was ''extremely
excited'' and very proud.
''He's been doing this for 17 years, quietly in the
backblocks. He has contributed a terrific amount to New
Zealand youth and no-one knows,'' she said.
Originally from Ashburton, Mr Smith was part of the farm
cadet scheme for three years after leaving school.
After several years overseas, he returned to New Zealand and,
as farming ''wasn't really paying well'', he worked at a
freezing works and for Fulton Hogan and ''did a few different
Once children arrived, the Smith family moved to North
Canterbury for five years, where he was stock manager at a
Cheviot property, and then shifted to Mount Peel Station in
That was followed by a stint at a farm at Mayfield, before
the family moved to Middlemarch four years ago, where he runs
a 6500ha sheep and cattle fattening operation for corporate
farmer Greenfield Rural. The operation employed four
permanent staff and a ''huge'' amount of casual labour, he
For the past 17 years, Mr Smith has employed a steady stream
of graduates from Telford, Lincoln University and AgITO
He has trained more than 30 young people as shepherds. Many
arrived with limited skills but invariably left confident in
pursuing the next phase of their career.
Mr Smith said he enjoyed working alongside young people and
trying to motivate them into farming. He had learnt from
others in the past and had ''been there, done that'' and he
hoped to pass on his knowledge and ''hopefully, give them a
Some were now successful head shepherds, 2ICs or managers and
it was good to see them progressing through the ranks, he
His wife, Justine, was an integral part of it - ''she bloody
near adopts the boys'' - and, as they were often only 17 or
18, the couple tended to ''be like their parents, really''.
While there were times his patience could be tried a little,
there was also a huge amount of fun, he said.
Mrs Williamson-Kavanaugh said taking on young people was a
''huge undertaking'', yet Mr Smith was extremely patient with
them and had given them ''their foot in the farming
Hamish Bielski, sheep genetics manager at Mount Linton
Station in Southland, worked with Mr Smith at Mount Peel in
It was his first year out of Lincoln University and it was
''good to have someone like Kevin to get you back into the
practical side of farming'', he recalled.
He described Mr Smith as a level-headed, sound man, who could
tell his staff how things were done in an easy and clear
manner, which was ''quite a skill''. The Smiths also made
staff feel very comfortable in both the working and social
environments, he said.
Mr Bielski was thrilled Mr Smith had been recognised in the
awards, saying he was an unsung hero. It was not an easy job
taking on ''young fellers'' and it could be very frustrating.
''These are the sorts of people we are trying to highlight as
an example of what can be done in our industry and what it's
like to be a patient and a good communicator.''
Coincidentally, Mr Bielski was also on stage during the
awards, with Mount Linton's Suftex winning the SIL-ACE
terminal sire for lamb growth award.