Last year, the Otago Daily Times and Rural Life celebrated the Year of the Farmer, a hugely successful initiative highlighting the work and community contributions of our farmers and growers. This culminated in the recognition of Duntroon dairy farmer Myfanwy Alexander as our inaugural Rural Champion. 

This year, we continued with a similar initiative called Rural Champions. In addition to seeking nominations for individual farmers or growers, we introduced a new category for Rural Services Providers. These essential providers, including vets, fertiliser reps, stock agents, agronomists, rural supplies reps, agricultural contractors, shearers, and shedhands, play a crucial role in the smooth running of farming operations and deserve to be celebrated. 

We have – once again - been overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm for Rural Champions. Nominations have now closed with over 100 good quality submissions being sent in. These nominations have reflected exactly why we continued this initiative for a second year. 

Sally Rae, our Rural and Business Editor, has been going over these. 

"A good bugger with a good heart" ... "epitomises resilience, innovation sustainable farming and robust community engagement'... "An absolute weapon of a young man"..."a regional superstar"  ... "they have a mission statement of running a farming system that takes into consideration the biodiversity, protecting and enhancing the environment, a low emission system and livestock raised as nature intended." 

It's that time again. Pouring over the many nominations for this year's Rural Champions campaign is a heartwarming job, albeit not an easy one. It makes me proud to be part of the farming sector.  Nominations have come from the length and breadth of the South Island. 

While the team has the hard job of narrowing down these nominations to the semi-finalists stage, we are launching a new part of the campaign, Rural Conversations.  

Rural Conversations will run for the next two months and has a focus on sparking positive dialogue within the rural sector. Each week we will pose the question ‘What steps are you taking to stay competitive and resilient in the face of domestic and global challenges’ to two industry experts who will weigh in with their opinion and advice. We also call on our readers to send in their thoughts, with the opportunity to be published online or in print. 

This part of the campaign aims to ignite chat within the rural sector about pressing industry topics, while steering the narrative towards positivity and progress – two things that Rural Champions is all about. 

Going forward, we will release our 2024 Rural Champions tabloid in August. It will showcase all our semi-finalists, sharing their stories and why they have been nominated as a Rural Champion. Stay tuned for more details.