‘Soft skills’ being put to good use

Matthew Tayler of Lorne Peak Station, Garston. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Matthew Tayler of Lorne Peak Station, Garston. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
It’s hard to believe that passionately dedicated Garston farmer Matthew Tayler once trod a different road — Auckland’s K Road, in fact.

But not in the way you might think.

As a university graduate, the Beef+Lamb New Zealand Southern Innovation farm programme farmer entered the world of high finance. He worked for PwC New Zealand in central Auckland and flatted on Karangahape Rd; about as far removed from the family farm Lorne Peak station in Northern Southland as you can get.

"I was strongly discouraged from farming," the 40-year-old father of two said.

"Our parents (Philip and Jenny Tayler) put no pressure of any of us, and encouraged us to go our own way."

Incidentally, the Taylers share the unusual surname spelling with their relation, former athlete Dick Tayler, who ran 10,000m to victory at the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games.

The Otago Boys’ High School boarder did a commerce degree at the University of Otago and postgraduate study, before heading up to the big smoke.

His return to the farm in his early 20s was hastened by his uncle’s death.

"I think it’s what I wanted to do, to be honest. All my holidays at varsity, all I wanted was to come home to the farm.

"Looking back now, I’m pretty happy with how things panned out. But I do feel guilty at times that all those qualifications are not used."

However, he said the experience of study had stood him in good stead for the various roles he has taken on.

"I don’t know if you go to varsity to learn. You go to learn how to learn."

As well as his role in Beef+Lamb, Mr Tayler is also an active member of Southland Federated Farmers, part of the Between The Domes Catchment Group, and a rural firefighter.

"They [the brigade] are a good bunch of guys, and it’s good to be associated with people who aren’t all farmers so we can talk about something else.

"I have tried to take a bit of this work on, to give something back, and to try to be in leadership roles.

"It doesn’t come naturally to me. But it’s not always about the loud guy with the bluster and bull ... Sometimes it’s the quiet ones, and that’s me."

He’d been home for about five years when he met future wife Shona online. She was a local girl from the farm up the road, who had done ballet with his sisters. But they didn’t know each other. At the time, she was working in the thoroughbred racing industry in Cambridge.

They married and have two children, Logan (4) and Pru (2), and took over the 5600ha hill-high country farm 12 years ago, working out the succession early on in the piece.

The way they farmed had changed hugely in the past decade.

"Ten years ago it was just me and Dad. Now Dad’s stepped back.

"The biggest adjustment for me is employing others. There’s not enough staff to do what needs to be done. We’re stretched really thin. Delegating — it’s not an easy thing for me to do.

"My role compared to 10 years ago is completely different. It’s not just driving a tractor.

"Now it’s managing relationships and looking after staff. It’s those soft skills that are just as important."

Mary Jo Tohill

 

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