A soccer fan from England who runs a dairy farm that supports grassroots rugby in Taranaki has won a prestigious title at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.
Charlie McCaig and his wife Jody took out the 2014 Sharemilker Equity Farmer of the Year title at the industry awards at the weekend.
The McCaigs sharemilk 500 cows at Hawera on behalf of the Taranaki Community Rugby Trust and Mr McCaig believes their experiences outside of dairying contributed to their win.
"We've come to the industry later on in our lives after having previous careers - Jody was an air quality research scientist who worked in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
''I didn't really have much of a career - I used to sell records for a living and lot of office work and things like that."
Mr McCaig said the couple were able to apply their previous experience working for corporate organisations and in large teams of people to farming.
"We arrived at the end of the financial crisis and we had assumed that we would be in Auckland or Wellington for continuing on her career but there wasn't a lot around and what did come up, there was a lot of competition for.
''So we ended up doing some relief milking for (Jody's) brother who married a farmer's daughter and who is now running a farm and we really enjoyed it," he said.
"After a while of doing that for a bit of fun we thought, hang on a minute, this is clearly an industry where there's a lot going on maybe we should be looking for work here, so that's how we kind of got into the industry."
The McCaigs are now ready to take the next step - farm ownership, and on 1 June they will move to their own farm, with 250 of their own cows.
"Starting off with a small herd like that means we don't have to take on astronomical amounts of debt and we can start building our business through its next phase."
Also at the awards: Nick Bertam, who contract milks 260 cows near Featherston, won the Farm Manager of the Year title.
Ruth Hone won the Dairy Trainee of the Year Award - she works on a 250 cow farm near Taupo.
She says taking part in the dairy industry awards process has helped to crystalise her career plans.
"In four years, I'm planning to go 20 per cent sharemilking on my parents 670 cow farm in Taupo.
''And then gradually build up my percentage, so I'll be 50 percent in, I think I worked out with my financial budget, was going to bein about nine years and then own it in 13 years, I'll have enough equity for the banks to support me to buy that farm."
As well as winning the Dairy Trainee of the Year Award Ms Hone completed her first marathon last week, the Rotorua Marathon, in just over 3 hours and 40 mins and says she bounced back quickly enough to spend the next day hunting on horseback.
Previous award winners closer to farm ownership
Winning the sharemilker award has been a huge career boost for last year's national winners, Don and Jess Moore, who are sharemilking on a farm outside Gore.
Don Moore said it's brought them closer to their ultimate goal, of farm ownership.
"We've got faily strong goals but it's probably brought those ability to achieve those goals forward a couple of years.
So the ultimate goal is certainly farm ownership - what we've been able to do in terms of bringing it forward is it's allowed us to have a bit more backing from the bank.
But also backing from other people, that have the ability to believe in us and that what we say we will do, we'll do."
Mr Moore said they would like to achieve farm ownership in another five years.