For the Bay of Plenty's top share farmers, the farm is much more than just a piece of land.
Out at Galatea, near Murupara, Aran and Sharleen Sealey farm the land, nurture the environment and raise a family.
Their connection to the land has seen the couple win the 2021 Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year category. They won $9,550 and four merit awards.
They are 50 per cent equity partners with Eric and Margaret Smeith, who are Sharleen’s parents. They milk 420 cows on the 160ha Galatea property.
“Farming is an ideal place to raise our family and work alongside our family. We’re able to utilise our skills and hobbies to benefit the farm business,” says Sharleen.
They didn’t know much about the awards process before entering this year but found it valuable to step back and look at what they are doing.
“When you are on the business side of it you are always looking at areas for improvement but when you are going through the competition you see that you’re doing so much really well, which I found really cool,” says Sharleen.
Sharleen’s grandfather bought the farm in 1951 after returning from World War II and it has been a dairy farm since then.
It looks out over the Whirinaki River, which is a place the family is deeply connected to and fiercely protective of.
“We see it as our family’s job to look after it. Our kids are in that river swimming every day in the summertime,” says Sharleen.
Aran entered the dairy industry in 2009 after completing a course through Te Awamutu College, managing for Eric until 2013 when he and Sharleen progressed to contract milking on the farm.
They will continue to build their herd, with farm ownership being the ultimate goal.
“We’d like to own the farm we are raising our family on as third-generation owners,” says Aran.
He says Sharleen’s grandfather is their inspiration during hard times.
“We think about what he did for our country at war and what he did for his community.”
Aran holds a Certificate in Dairy Farming Level 4 while Sharleen is studying towards a Diploma in Agribusiness Management.
Challenges the couple have faced and overcome include learning about employer responsibilities and the juggle of work and family.
Work and life balance is hugely important to the couple.
The Sealeys believe that being able to work alongside family strengthens the business unit because they share the same goals.