Ahuwhenua Trophy finalist Anahera Hale gives Alex Lond an insight into her past, present and future ambitions as a dairy farmer.
An introvert at heart, the last thing Anahera Hale saw herself doing was entering into the prestigious Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer competition. But she now knows the competition is entrenched in her whakapapa, after finding out her great, great grandfather won the Ahuwhenua Trophy in 1936. An extraordinary discovery that made Ana emotional talking about even now, she never knew a family member of hers had achieved something like this.
“I went from knowing very little about the trophy and its significance, to researching the history after entering and discovering that my great great grandfather was one of the first winners back in the 1930’s.”
After a few bad years of feeling lost and struggling to cope after the death of her grandfather, this discovery gave her confidence that she was on the right path, following in her family’s footsteps and felt even more pride in being a finalist. After Anahera went ahead with a last-minute entry, she had only two days to prepare her application and then two more before the judge’s visit. She was feeling extremely nervous and out of place in the lead up, but always felt the support of her whanau with her.
“I always felt I just wanted to be authentically me and allow them to judge me based on that.”
Growing up in Edgecumbe with a family history working with horses and dry stock, Anahera knew no matter what, she wanted a job working outside and with animals. Her family had no connections in dairy farming, it was just by chance this profession presented itself to her.
After the Edgecumbe floods destroyed her home, Ana and her nan moved into a cottage on a friend’s dairy farm in Whakatane.
It was while living here temporarily her interest in dairy farming developed as she sat at home watching the farmer go past each day to milk his cows and complete day to day jobs. In a happy twist of fate, this is the same farm that Anahera has just started working on as a farm assistant this season, after the farm she last worked on was sold and the sharemilkers moved on from dairy.
“It’s really quite amazing actually, that this is the farm that inspired me to start my dairy journey back in 2017, and now four years later I’m back to repay the favour”.
After completing a course in Agriculture at Toi Ohomai, the Institute of Technology, in the Bay of Plenty, at the start of 2019 Anahera started working as 2IC farm assistant for Rod and Jacquie McPherson, on their 340-cow dairy farm just outside Whakatane.
Anahera had an excellent relationship with her bosses and loved the opportunities presented to her through the job.
`Farming is a lifestyle’
“It’s never been about the money or the time off for me,” Anahera explained.
“Farming is a lifestyle and there are so many skills that can be learned and improved on. I love that I am continuously developing my skill set and building a better future for myself.”
Anahera’s time on her first farm was limited as the farm was sold at the end of the 2020/21 dairy season, but after being one of three finalists in the running for the Ahuwhenua trophy, she had no problem finding a new job in the area.
“After the trophy, people would recognise me everywhere; they would want to shake my hand, congratulate me and ask me what my plans were next season. Before the awards I was not very confident with new people or in big crowds, but now I enjoy telling people about my experience, and found it amazing meeting so many like minded farmers who shared my passion from all different areas.”
With more courage and understanding of the industry, Anahera is confident she will stick with dairy for a while longer, despite earlier reservations and thoughts that she wanted to change to dry stock. Although this is still on the cards, she recognises how valuable dairy farming skills are in all lines of agricultural work and wants to build on these skills before considering a different career path.
Anahera is now farm assistant on a similar sized farm to her last job, still in the Edgecumbe area, and is enjoying the slower pace of life with all cows wintered off during the dry period. Very much aware it is the calm before the storm, she sees it as an opportunity to learn more about the farm she lived on for that short period of time in 2017. Despite enjoying the course that got her into dairy farming, she now wants to enjoy the physical benefits of being out onfarm every day.
“What you learn in the book isn’t the same as what you learn in the paddock,” she said.
“You can know the theory behind everything, but if you can’t physically get out there and get the job done then what’s the point?.”
Entering the awards showed her that people from all walks of life are still in with a chance of doing great things if they put their mind to it. It has helped her grow confidence in herself and in her own abilities as a farmer. Although, other people have always believed in her and supported her journey, in particular her nan; in return, family has always been the most important thing in her life, she said.
“My hobby is my family, I spend all the time I can with them.”
With their continuous support, Anahera is looking to the future with big plans for her dairy farming career.
“My next step is to complete an artificial insemination (AI) course this year, as this was already on my mind before the awards, and now I feel like I have the courage and confidence to go out to other people’s farms.”
Acknowledging that communication with farmers is an extremely important part of an AI tech’s job, she said she was first motivated by her own AI tech after chatting to him every morning.
“They’re just so passionate about their role, not just in getting the cows in calf but also chatting with the farmer. Sometimes, an AI tech is the only person a farmer will see all day during mating, and I want to make a positive impact on people after so many others have helped me get to this point and have these opportunities.”