Tim Dangen, Northern FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2022. Photo/Supplied
The grand finale of the 2022 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition series takes place July 7-9 in Whangārei, with seven regional finalists vying for the title. Read on to learn more about Tim Dangen, Young Northern Farmer of the Year.
Surrounded by native bush, Tim Dangen can see the wild west coast waves lapping the shoreline from the top of the Muriwai family farm.
Born and raised in the rugged country that straddles the Goldies Bush Scenic Reserve, Dangen is the third generation to call it home.
“We have a pretty strong connection to the land, I think, because of the grafting that was done on it to make it the farm it is today,” he said.
“Of course there are some challenges, but we like the location and the balance the farm gives us being close to town.”
As Auckland’s urban sprawl neared, FMG North’s Young Farmer of the Year reflected on changing land use and how best to adapt while honoring his family heritage .
“Our long-term vision for the farm is to make it an educational institution.”
Dangen said he has a passion for teaching and giving children the opportunity to be exposed to agriculture.
“Because we’re on the doorstep of Auckland, we have the ability to take the kids out, get their hands dirty and [get them] feed the animals, so that they at least have the opportunity to connect with the animals, the land and the agriculture.”
The 100 hectare family farm is currently a commercial calf raising business, supplemented by a further 200 hectares of leasehold properties scattered around the district.
The 30-something and his wife Jenny live in an apartment in Hobsonville Point while their dream home is built on the farm.
Jenny travels to Albany every day, while Dangen travels to the farm, moving stock to rental blocks when returning to town.
Seven years ago, Dangen returned to the farm with the aim of taking it over.
He sat down with his parents to assess farming operations and how to make them financially viable.
Focusing on raising calves, the first year they raised 200 calves and realized that there were quite profitable margins.
They took the business model and scaled it, now raising 1000 calves a year.
Leasehold properties – mostly lifestyle blocks – allow calves to be held longer on the farm and sold at different ages instead of just the weaning market.
The couple are aware that the current operation has a limited commercial life. So he’s considering other options to diversify and capitalize on being on the fringes of the Big Smoke.
“We are building a big shed which we will use as a wedding venue to generate income,” Dangen said.
“The farm will always have animals due to its size, but if we can try to direct the finances towards the hospitality sector, it could free up time to be able to focus on my other passions.”
Dangen graduated from Lincoln University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 2014 and dipped his toes into dairy farming in Southland for 18 months, an industry he loved.
Employed by Simon Hopcroft and his wife Janine, Dangen credited the couple with inspiring him into a hands-on farming career.
“When I got out of college, I was probably going to go into rural appraisal.”
A practical summer session in Southland opened his eyes to farming, he said.
“They showed me how good farming can be and how, if done right, you can lead a pretty good life.”
Hopcroft, crowned FMG Young Farmer of the Year in 2004, also mentored Dangen to become a member of Young Farmers New Zealand and passed on the legacy and passion of the competition.
Since then, Dangen has not looked back.
Heavily involved in Auckland City Young Farmers, he also made four regional finals, eventually making it to the grand final this year.
“A competition like this keeps you up to date with current issues, pushes your limits in different sectors and gets you thinking in innovative ways,” he said.
The desire to represent his NZYF club and other farmers with pride had seeped into Dangen’s daily work.
“Most of the things I do now, I try to do them with the objective that I represent my club and all the farmers.
“It makes you a little more self-aware to keep pushing yourself to do the best you can for your land and your animals.”
He modestly attributed his victory in the Northern Regional Final to not being “particularly strong” in any area of the contest, but not being “particularly bad” in any area either.
“If you try enough times, you’ll eventually get away with it,” he laughed.
Dangen’s main test in the Grand Finals will be his memory and quiz speed. Although he knows the answers, he has discovered that he can be a bit slow to hit the buzzer.
Dangen wanted to use his GMF du Nord Young Farmer of the Year profile to showcase the opportunities the sector offers and “make farming sexy again.”
“The more opportunities there are for young people, the better. It also sows the seed a bit that there are a lot of interesting things happening in the industry right now and there always will be.”
“We are all role models, everyone involved in the industry has the opportunity to inspire others to the industry and be a role model.
“Farmers are a really great group of people.”
Dangen wanted to break the perception that there were only “on the farm” jobs in the sector.
He thought Kiwi farmers should take a lot more pride in being the most efficient dairy and cattle farmers in the world.
“Our greatest asset is our people. We often tell the story of our land and our animals, but it’s our people who are really special to New Zealand agriculture.
“The people are the ones who put us in the position we are in now and in good place for the future.
“As long as we continue to attract good young people, we are moving forward with innovation and technology. I think New Zealand agriculture will continue to be world class and world leading in many areas because we are already at the forefront.”
Vote for Tim Dangen in the 2022 FMG Young Farmer of the Year People’s Choice Award here.