High-quality nominations received

Otago Daily Times and Rural Life 2023 Rural Champion Myfanwy Alexander addresses a celebration at...
Otago Daily Times and Rural Life 2023 Rural Champion Myfanwy Alexander addresses a celebration at her Duntroon home last year. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
"Epiytomises resilience, innovation, sustainable farming and robust community engagement."

That is just one of the nominations received for the Otago Daily Times and Rural Life 2024 Rural Champions initiative, celebrating the South Island’s food-producing champions.

Some are more succinct: "a good bugger with a good heart", "an absolute weapon of a young man", "a regional superstar" but they all have the common theme of farming folk who contribute positively to New Zealand’s biggest export earner while also making their communities a better place to live.

Last year, we celebrated Year of the Farmer, a hugely successful initiative championing the work and community contributions of our farmers and growers.

It culminated in the naming of Duntroon dairy farmer Myfanwy Alexander as our inaugural Rural Champion, fitting acknowledgement for an all-round outstanding human.

This year, we are again celebrating our Rural Champions and have added an additional category — those who work in rural support; the behind-the-scenes folk critical to ensuring the smooth running of farming and growing operations.

Again, there have been equally heartwarming nominations, summed up by this one: "... exemplifies the old-fashioned value of customer service and putting your customer first. He treats our business as if it was his own and is constantly looking for ways to help improve our farming practices and look for new opportunities to grow our farming business".

Nominations have come from the north and south of the South Island, and the east and west. Condensing them down to our semifinalists who will be profiled in a special publication in August is no easy task. But that is a good complaint to have.

In October, one outstanding food producer will be named our Rural Champion — along with our champion rural services provider — and we will celebrate their contribution to the rural sector. In the meantime, it is pen to the pad as we begin the task of telling their stories.

It is tough at the moment in the rural sector — we all know that — just like it is in many other sectors. But, as mental health advocate Sir John Kirwan urged while officially launching the Rural Champions campaign at the Wānaka A&P Show in March, let’s focus on what we can control, rather than what we can’t.

And one thing we can all do a little bit better is tell the stories of the men and women who roll out of bed every day to help put food on the table for the world’s burgeoning population while also rolling up their sleeves for the good of their local communities. Surely that is worth celebrating.

A personal thank-you to all those who took the time to nominate their own rural heroes; to our sponsors for sharing our vision and to all our other valued supporters.

I look forward to again sharing the stories of another batch of outstanding rural champions with you.


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