Mac Williams first dipped his toes into farming when he was a teen on the West Coast.
“Where I’m from, it’s wild – 85% of our region is native bush, and we’re bordered by tall rimus and big scrub. You’re right in amongst it. One day you’ll get 200ml of rain, and the next day it will be beautiful sunshine.”
He grew up with his parents in town, but Mac spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ farm in Jacksons. He’s been mad about farming since he was a “wee squirt”.
“I ended up getting a cow when I was 10. Grandad bought me a young heifer off one of the people who leased the farm, and then I ended up running 10-15 cows on neighbouring lifestyle blocks. I worked for a few share milkers too.”
That was before he met his neighbour, Matt Donahue, a Canterbury dairy farmer who bought the neighbouring property.
“He asked if I could drive tractors, and I said yes. He took me under his wing and taught me everything really. The rest is history.”
Mac spent the majority of lockdown in the bush, driving tractors through rivers that snaked through the 1200-cow dairy farm. What began as clearing gorse grew to milking cows, feeding out, and whatever else needed doing.
Now every summer Mac returns to work on Matt’s farm. His boss has taught him all he knows – knowledge and skills that have come in handy during the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest.
Calling it “fluky”, Mac says winning the Taranaki Manawatū FMG Young Farmer of the Year was something he didn’t expect.
“The competition has been pretty daunting, a lot of work to do, but it’s been really well done. Everything’s put in front of you. It’s awesome.”
Two years into a veterinary degree, Mac is no stranger to knuckling down. Wanting to get into farming but not knowing how, vet school felt like the perfect fit. Plus, he’s always had a love for cattle.
“They’re very interesting animals, creatures of habit. It’s crazy to think they’re so big but also so docile.”
In his first year at Massey University, Mac joined the Young Farmers Club. He was already familiar with the club dynamic, having been a member of TeenAg when he boarded at St Bede’s College.
This year’s competition was his first run at it, and it’s already influenced the way he sees farming in the future.
“The competition really immerses you into what’s coming next. WorkSafe and the Environmental Protection Authority, their modules are very forward focused. And the farming industry – it’s physically very challenging, but very rewarding too. But the mental rollercoasters of what’s in front of you show it’s just a constant problem-solving game.”
The variety of challenges has opened his eyes to what’s coming next, and Mac is confident he’s ready for it. But that doesn’t stop him from being relaxed about the whole thing.
“I’m the guy who is always wondering what’s happening tomorrow,” he jokes.
“Whether I win or not, I’m looking forward to the opportunities presented by the contest and being a part of such an iconic event. You’ve got to take what comes from it and enjoy the journey.”