The reds have it in South Island Farmer of the Year finals

Three red meat producers and a Central Otago wine business will be up against each other for the finals of the Lincoln University Foundation 2016 South Island Farmer of the Year at Lincoln University on November 16.

The four finalists are:

  • James Dicey, a viticulturist and owner of Grape Vision Limited based in Bannockburn, Central Otago.
  • Lauren and Geoff Shaw, sheep and beef farmers in Central Otago, near Ranfurly.
  • Lyn and Neil Campbell, Campbell Farms, Middle Valley, near Fairlie in South Canterbury farming sheep, beef, bulls and deer, and arable crops.
  • Simon Lee, Manager Mendip Hills Station, Parnassus, North Canterbury, farming sheep, beef and deer.

Foundation Chair Ben Todhunter says he’s looking forward to a great finals night on November 16.

“The finals dinner is always one of the highlights of this competition. It’s a chance to hear directly from the finalists about what makes their business succeed; their innovations and inventions, vital points of difference, and generally just what makes a farm business, good enough to make the finals of this prestigious competition, tick.

“This event is a key part of the Foundation’s work to encourage and develop excellence and leadership in New Zealand’s primary industries and I encourage all farmers to join us to support the finalists’ presentations, and learn from them.”

The finals and dinner will be held at Lincoln University Te Kete Ika – Food and Function Centre from 5:30pm. Bookings can be made via this website.

Finalists’ profiles

James Dicey

James DiceyJames Dicey

James Dicey is a viticulturist and owner of Grape Vision Limited. He is based in Bannockburn, Central Otago. He manages some 35 vineyards throughout Central Otago, with a rough total of 300ha.

As well as growing grapes for other wineries, Dicey has his own wine label, Ceres Wine, which is sold domestically and internationally. Additional to the vineyards are a tasting room, cellar door sales, a wine distribution company and his consultancy business.

In the future Dicey hopes to be farming more on his own account, as the nature of his industry is constantly changing. Some of his biggest challenges are dealing with the environment and the competition within the grape and wine industry. The competitive nature of the industry is a driver toward quality. Dicey is constantly ensuring that the wines he produces are high quality and have a point of difference to try to generate and keep his market share.

“My biggest and most important goals are to deliver a high quality product for my clients, to get the best out of the staff and to do well by them, to continually financially improve my business and to achieve a better work and life balance.”


Lauren and Geoff Shaw

Lauren and Geoff ShawLauren and Geoff Shaw

Geoff and Lauren Shaw are sheep and beef farmers in Central Otago, near Ranfurly. They have two blocks of land totalling 840ha. Their land is a mixture of medium rolling to rolling flat dryland lucerne pasture. They have no irrigation.

The Shaw’s arrived in 2000 and took over the sheep that were already on their land, which were quarterbreds, and quickly fazed them out, replacing them with Corriedales. This was while they were renewing older pasture with lucerne on the gravel flats and lucerne/grass mixes on the better soils, on the 700ha home block. 2009 they phased out the Corriedales by reducing numbers and changed to crossbred, with now more emphasis on cattle, buying in beef calves and finishing. They have also introduced spring-summer grazing for any types of stock.

The Shaws’ biggest challenges are the dry lands that they are situated on, the harsh winters that Central Otago can bring and, at the opposite end of the scale, the hot summers that can often reach up to 30 degrees.

“I think we have something to bring to this competition simply because we’re applying the basics of farming to the best of our abilities,” Geoff said. “We are trying to do the basics right, nothing like rocket science.”


Lyn and Neil Campbell

Lyn and Neil CampbellLyn and Neil Campbell

Lyn and Neil Campbell are the owners of Campbell Farms in Middle Valley, north of Fairlie in South Canterbury.
They farm sheep, beef, bulls and deer and grow arable crops. Their land is rolling downs country that ranges from 380 meters to 600 meters above sea level. Of a total of 760 hectares of land, 650ha is effective, and about 60ha is planted in exotic trees. There is also 20 hectares set aside as regenerating native bush.

The Campbells also have strategically planted wetland areas on their farm to catch sediment run-off from the deer pasture. Additional to the farm business, they cater to tourists by offering cottage farm stays. They also own a vineyard in Blenheim.

“We go from summer dry valley floor to higher altitude moist hill country,” Neil explained. “Some of the things we are doing at altitude are more common at sea level, like growing crops. The diversity of our business, we believe gives strong balance environmentally and financially.”


Simon Lee

Simon LeeSimon Lee

Simon Lee is the farm manager of Mendip Hills Station, a sheep, beef and deer farm in Parnassus, north of Cheviot. The property comprises some 6,100 ha ranging from flat to rolling, hill and high country, with an 180ha irrigated block in Spotswood and a 150 ha irrigated block in Ashburton.

A large family business that has been around since the mid-1950s, Simon says that Mendip Hills has a culture of always trying out new ways of doing things – such as beef and lamb genetic trials, a past focus farmer for five years for the deer industry and involvement with various Massey University trials.

“My most important goals for the farm are to be up in the top ten percent of farmers from our class of country to be innovative and to have good staff and teach them as much as I can so that they are well skilled and have good opportunities in the industry to further their careers.