Southland dairy farmers and former regional Sharemilker of
the Year winners Dylan and Sheree Ditchfield and Rex and
Roslynne Kane invited 13 Auckland professional people to
attend the recent New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA)
dinner and anniversary ball in Auckland on May 9. Mr and Mrs
Ditchfield explained the thinking behind the move.
The idea of inviting the Auckland professional people to the
awards dinner arose from discussions we had about the
Our talks had been centred
around how great it would be if there was better unity
between urban and rural people and communities within New
The comment of ''continual urban-rural disconnect'' is a
common statement. We wanted to engage New Zealanders, so they
would walk along beside us - us being farmers and dairy
producers, who were genuinely advocating for our dairy
industry - and we felt the dinner invitations would be a way
to ''reconnect the disconnect''.
We thought the NZDIA would a brilliant forum to showcase the
Our objective was simply to just have conversations with
those people in a positive dairy space, hoping that what they
saw and experienced would provoke other conversations with
their peers outside the dairy industry.
We invited 13 urban people, most of whom were professionals
and from the greater Auckland area. The urban representatives
interspersed with farmers at our tables were teachers, a
professor, a school councillor, surgeons, a radiographer, a
sports presenter and a commercial banker.
Fonterra sponsored the guests' tickets.
During the evening discussions at the dinner table were
stimulating and thought-provoking and questions they asked
were because they wanted to gain some depth of knowledge and
understanding of the industry.
The feedback has been extremely positive.
Our urban friends had many insights and left inspired. Many
parallels were drawn between their own professions and the
If our urban friends have had as many conversations as we
have about the evening, I think we have been successful in
achieving our objective.
Another of the lessons we took away is that these urban
people are open, genuinely curious and willing to learn about
the dairy industry but simply have not had the opportunity
for exposure previously.
Comments we received from two of the participants included
how much they enjoyed the evening, and how it gave them a
greater insight and understanding of the dairy industry. One
person said they had talked to a dozen people about dairying
this week and realised how positive and supportive the
industry was, that you do not have to be rich to be involved
in farming and all that was required was passion, motivation
and a love for the land and the cows.
If stories like this and others enter urban media, that is
when conversations about positive dairying will gain
Hopefully, there will be opportunities for others to do
something similar in the future, as we are sure there will be
many ''pay it forward'' benefits.