A Te Hana farm manager who advocates for work-life balance in agriculture has been chosen as the NZ Dairy Industry Awards 2022 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year.
Phillip Payton, 35, milks and looks after 350 cows on Greg and Ingrid McCracken’s 175ha property.
Payton won prizes worth $5750 and was presented with three merit awards for leadership, livestock and dairy management at the annual Northland awards dinner, which was held at Copthorne Hotel in Waitangi, on March 16.
He said he and his partner Leef were quite private people and had only moved from the Waikato to Te Hana in late 2020, so he entered the dairy awards to network and build professional relationships in the area.
“We are newbies to the Northland region, which has been challenging in both positive and negative ways,” he said.
“It’s been a welcome change to be able to work for a business that is set up not just for its own success, but also yours. Education is not only encouraged, but employees are well-supported in their pursuits and progression.”
Payton said this wasn’t always the case, but it was vital for any farm business to ensure best practice extended to its workforce, and for workers to push for fair conditions.
“So much of an employee’s livelihood is intertwined with the farm,” he said. “Worker-friendly rosters, training, pay rates and healthy housing are just the basics and should be seen as investments.
“Employers and employees alike need to be honest with their intent and future goals.”
He said one of the most confronting truths for him had been that for the majority of his farming career, a work-life balance hadn’t been there, which was why he advocated for better rosters and milking schedules that benefited not only him and other workers, but the cows as well.
Payton’s long-term goal is to incorporate teaching and education into a contract milking and calf-rearing business.
“We aim to have a viable contracting business that provides short-term relief staff capable of running the entire operation,” he said. “The service will be specifically aimed to give owner-operators, contract milkers and share milkers time off-farm.”
Any free time Payton and Leef get is mostly spent visiting family, though he also enjoys golf, fishing, camping and travelling to Aotea Great Barrier Island.