By Elaine Fisher

A positive attitude no matter the time of day or weather is a skill Thomas Lundman learnt as a nature guide and now applies to his dairying career.

“A good attitude is what keeps you going through long days, lack of sleep and bad weather. It’s also important in dairying to remain positive and keep a smile on your face, though now I’m dealing sometimes with grumpy cows instead of grumpy tourists,” says Thomas (24) who is the 2022 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Thomas grew up on a dairy farm in Southland but dairying wasn’t his immediate career choice.

“As Te Anau is such a tourist town, I had a part-time job after school, working in tourism and when I left school I worked for Real Journeys NZ (now Real NZ) as a glow worm cave nature guide.”

It was a role Thomas enjoyed for five years and he also guided tourists in Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and on the Milford Track.

“I love working with people and my role included all age groups from tourists on their retirement holidays to students at school camps.”

When he moved to the North Island, Thomas considered continuing with tourism. “Then Covid hit and the decision to go dairying was made easy for me. It’s nice having a steady, reliable job which will always be there.”

Thomas is farm assistant for Chris and Rosie Mexted on a 140ha Whakatane farm milking 550 cows. “I’m excited to see New Zealand continue to lead the way in sustainable dairy farming. I see myself as someone who will do my best to farm to the best practices.”

In 2021 Thomas was runner-up in the dairy trainee category.

“My boss Chris is a previous award winner and he encouraged me to enter. It was pretty terrifying both times to put myself forward, but I have grown in confidence through the experience. I would encourage other young farmers to enter because everyone is very supportive and wants the best for you.”

While Thomas was still at high school, he attended an introductory agricultural skills course at Telford.

“I found it very useful, and I fall back on the basic skills taught then,” says Thomas who is training through a Primary ITO dairy apprenticeship.

His short-term goals include progressing through the industry to gain more knowledge and skills and marrying his fiancée and starting a family.

Thomas is undecided if herd and farm ownership is his future career path. “I’m a people person and am considering going into managing multiple farms, working with farm managers, contract milkers and sharemilkers on behalf of an owner. However, there is a lot more I need to know before I get to that stage.”

Overwhelmed with the generous prize package he won (valued at $6050), Thomas says he is grateful to the national and local sponsors and the organisers of the awards, which aims to acknowledge the industry’s best and promote its positive attributes.