Six months after welcoming a new chief executive, Maori-owned milk processor Miraka has had to start a new search for a leader.
This year, four farms - Sandel Ridge, Arataki, Glengour, and Chamberlin Trust - reached the sought-after perfrect score of 100% at the company's Te Ara Miraka (the Miraka Way) farming excellence awards.
Thirteen of the 100 participating farms achieved a score of 90% or more, alongside the four farms with a perfect score. Just ten farms achieved a score over 90% when the awards began five years ago. The excellence standards include a mix of mandatory and optional criteria. Optional criteria are allocated points, and results are financially incentivised over and above the farmgate milk price.
Miraka chief executive Grant Watson says the Te Ara Miraka programme incentivises farmers to achieve some of the dairy industry's highest standards in animal welfare, staff management, and sustainable land practices.
"We raise the bar each year and we're seeing some significant change in on-farm practices across our supply farms.
"One of the benefits of being a smaller company is that we can provide personalised support to each of our farms. For us it's about working together to show the industry what's possible," he says.
Te Ara Miraka award winners Wayne and Andrea Chamberlin, Chamberlin Trust, say they were proud to stand alongside the other three top farms on the winners' podium.
"We've been part of Miraka from the early days and connect with their vision of nurturing our world, which has increased in significance for us over time," says Andrea.
"We're a family-run entity and we draw strength from that. This award pays tribute to the hard work of our son Tony and his wife Nic, who are our sharemilkers.
"Together we share a love for the land and the animals and take pride in rearing quality animals and producing quality animals and producing quality milk. It's been really special to celebrate tonight with other Miraka supply farmers," says Andrea.
Miraka's farmers were rewarded for their efforts at the company's annual suppliers' dinner and awards night in Taupo recently.
Over 260 people attended - including Miraka senior leadership and shareholders, supply farmers, and some of the dairy industry's key change-makers. This year the event included a Treading Lightly Award for farms showing genuine leadership in management of potential freshwater contaminants.
Winners came from a range of farm sizes, showing that it's possible to minimise your impact regardless of production intensity.
"Miraka's carbon footprint is one of the lowest in world for any dairy processor," says Grant Jackson, Miraka's general manager of milk supply.
"We see ourselves as caretakers of this land and the life within it, and work closely with our farmers, factory and supply chain team to reduce our impact and build resilience for the future," he says.
Golden Bay farmer Wayne Langford, founder and general manager of farmer-founded charity FeedOut, spoke at the awards night about Miraka's support of the charity.
"Miraka were the first dairy company to come on board. Our conversation with them was pretty easy - they signed up after the first phone call! In just six months Miraka farmers have donated over 20,000 litres of milk to families in need, which is incredible.
"To me that demonstrates how Miraka's values run right through their business," he says.