Posted by: rivettingkatetaylor | May 19, 2010

Farm Managers of the Year!

Friends Monty and Michelle Monteith won the Farm Manager of the Year national title in Rotorua on Saturday!!! In true small town NZ style, I play netball against Michelle and tennis with Monty.  And they’re thoroughly deserving of such an award.

Monty and Michelle Monteith with Liam, 2, and Harriet, seven months.

Here’s a story I wrote for the Dominion Post about them when they won the Hawke’s Bay title. 

Business life is continuing to change for Monty and Michelle Monteith, winners of the Hawke’s Bay Farm Manager of the Year Award.

From the start of June, they will no longer be farm managers but 50/50 partners in Ruatuki Ltd with farm owners Paddy Fogarty and Erin Squire. It’s the same farm they’ve been on for the past three years, managing the property as 20% equity partners for leasees Dean and Kristen Nikora.

Ruatuki Ltd will lease the 188ha property (effective) and own both the Fonterra shares and the 550 cows. The couple say it’s a step up which also enables them to stay in their home in a community they enjoy.

The property is on Tukituki Rd at the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges near Ongaonga in Central Hawke’s Bay.

Michelle grew up on a Hastings sheep and beef farm, although she is currently on maternity leave from WHK accountants in Waipukurau.

Mr Monteith grew up on a dairy farm near Dannevirke. After a panel beating apprenticeship and several years overseas, he became a diving instructor in Palmerston North.  He says he loved the travel (to places like Tonga and Vanuatu) and meeting different people, including Michelle.

Selling dive gear as part of his job soon led to two sales jobs, one of them in Melbourne. But the couple became sick of big companies always moving the goal posts and decided to talk farming. 

Their first job was for Kevin and Joanne Blair at Tutira but driving an hour to work every day (including through SH2’s notorious Devil’s Elbow) was hard work on Michelle, especially when she was heavily pregnant. So they decided to drive around the region to see what caught their eye.

“We were sick of salaries and wages. We didn’t control our own livelihoods. There are $4.50 payout years where dairy farming is tough but at least you have control of your own destiny.”

They found out about the manager’s vacancy within the Nikora’s business on one of those investigative jaunts and are grateful to the Nikoras for the opportunity.

“I was keen as mustard, I just needed someone to take a chance on me,” Mr Monteith says.

To win the Farm Manager of the Year Award on their second attempt was great (3rd in 2009) with last year’s feedback giving more focus to this year’s entry.

The couple wanted to benchmark themselves and create more opportunities.

“It has already served that purpose in that we’ve haven’t had to move anywhere but build on the business we have here. We’re still learning so much,” Mrs Monteith says.

Their goals are basic – to invest in stock for the next 10 years and built up equity for land ownership in that time.

“Our goals are basic but it’s got to be fun,” he says. he adds “we want to be proud of how we’ve achieved success. We are focused but it’s essential we act with integrity and look after people. It sounds airy fairy but it’s true. You want to work hard and enjoy your drink at the end of the day.”

Mrs Monteith says family comes first.

“There’s no point sitting on your farm with lots of money if your wife’s left you and the kids don’t recognise you. It’s being realistic. It’s not all about money. The kids play a big part in it. It’s about spending time with them and building the business alongside your family.

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