WORDS BY ELAINE FISHER
PHOTOS BY: ROSS NOLLY
Taranaki | Dairy Trainee of the Year
Sydney Porter, winner of the 2021 Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year, credits much of her success to the people she has around her.
“I have the best employers ever. I lost dad two years ago and Phil and Tanya Nixon are like a second set of parents for me. Tanya is absolutely incredible, and Phil has helped fill that father-daughter space in my life.
“Jax Bracegirdle has been my trainee adviser for the last 18 months, and she’s absolutely amazing with the support she’s given me, not only through Primary ITO but through my personal life as well. I know I am so lucky to have supportive people around me.”
At 22 years old, Sydney acknowledges managing depression in a physically demanding position has been a challenge.
“Dairy farming and depression go together like tomato sauce on ice-cream,” she says. “I’m proud to still be here today without giving up. The light at the end of the tunnel really shone through and I’m lucky to have supportive bosses whose priority was making sure I was okay.”
Sydney’s commitment to dairying is evidenced in many ways; hard work, adaptability, always being up for a challenge, and getting up at 4.30am to go to work.
“I love my sleep. After two and a half years, getting up at 4.30am is still hard, but I love my job so it’s worth it.”
That job is as a farm assistant on the Nixon’s 110ha, 320-cow farm in Hawera. She won $5200 in prizes and two merit awards.
However, Sydney didn’t even consider dairy as a career until she helped her older brother as a relief milker. “There was something about being outside and being surrounded by cows which captured my heart.”
One cow in particular has won Sydney’s heart. “My two-year-old pet cow Daisy is going to live at my house when she stops milking. I love her so much.”
Working outside and variety in her days appeals to Sydney who enjoys a challenge. “I love that no day is the same – I could be a milker in the morning, a vet nurse in the afternoon, and before I go home, I could be fixing something on the bike, or repairing a fence. We are milking 320 cows on a split calving farm so don’t have a dry off time – it’s always busy.”
Sydney, who entered the awards last year, says putting herself out there was a personal achievement. “I’ve gained friendships and so much more farm knowledge.”
She encourages other young people to consider dairying as a career. “It’s crazy how supportive farmers are, especially of young people. They want you to succeed and if you have a good support crew behind you, are motivated and willing to learn, you will go places in the industry. I wouldn’t want to change anything about the industry itself, more about how people perceive it.”
Sydney wants to be involved in the dairy industry in some capacity well into the future.
“I’m not 100% on my plans. I just know I want to do as many qualifications and study as possible to keep my options open.”
RUNNER UP in the Dairy Trainee category was Farm Assistant Logan Stevenson from Opunake, and Ngaiana Miller from Eltham was third.
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
Taranaki Veterinary Centre Farming Knowledge Award – Sydney Porter
LandPro Limited Community and Industry Involvement Award – Ngaiana Miller
Bayleys Real Estate Taranaki Communication and Engagement Award – Sydney Porter
DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Logan Stevenson