Power company Meridian has renewed its sponsorship of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) for another three years.
Philippines-born Vila beat 10 other regional farm manager finalists to pick up the award at the New Zealand Dairy Awards national finals in Hamilton this month.
A trained vet, Vila moved to New Zealand 13 years ago. Starting as a farm assistant on a 1,200-cow farm in Reporoa, he worked his way up to his current role seven years ago – a farm manager on a 340-cow family trust farm in Ohaupo, outside Hamilton.
After accepting his award, Vila said he was overwhelmed and overjoyed that his dream has become a reality.
“I would like to dedicate this achievement to each and every person who dared to dream something great and strived hard to take each step, no matter how small it may seem, to reach for it despite adversities.
“Achieving our dreams is a great reward, but choosing to fight for our dreams makes us a winner.”
Vila thanked everyone involved with the awards – the organisers, sponsors and fellow contestants.
But he had special words for three supporters; his employer Mark and Lisa Turnwald and the Turnwald family, his wife Jonah and his “girls” – his cows.
He thanked the Turnwald family for the support and trusting him to manage their farm.
“We feel especially grateful that you have treated us not only as an employee but as a part of your wonderful family.”
Vila thanked his wife for her support.
“As they say, ‘behind every man’s success is a woman.’ If Barack has Michelle, and Jay-z has Beyonce, well I have Jonah. No success in the world is worth it unless I share it with you.”
He also gave a shout-out to his cows.
“You have done very well for the consistent effort to produce high quality milk throughout the season. Don’t you worry girls, your long awaited holiday is coming soon.”
Vila says winning the title is by far the most memorable milestone in his career in the dairy industry.
“It is good to dream a thousand dreams but we should not stop there. We should get up the next day and lose ourselves in pursuit of our dreams, of what makes us whole, and what makes us fulfilled.”
The judges describe Vila as a humble, competent and passionate dairy farmer who sets high standards for himself and staff. “He’s completely engaged in his role but also understands the importance of getting off-farm and spending time with his wife and young daughter.”
Head Judge Malcolm Scott from Westpac says Vila has built a very strong relationship with his farm owners and his family. “Christopher is the first person the family has employed that is not a family member. Christopher has earned their trust and respect and is growing with this opportunity.”
“He’s on a farm that is like a goldfish bowl, surrounded by 50-odd houses and lifestyle blocks,” says fellow judge Gray Beagley from DairyNZ.
“He understands the property is in the public eye and does everything on-farm to the absolute best of his ability.”
“Christopher cares about the neighbouring properties, and rather than spray for weeds, which risks killing urban plantings, he will pull weeds by hand near the boundary fences,” says Gray. “His attention-to-detail is outstanding and he wants to do everything very well.”