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Last week I walked over the Tongariro Crossing. It’s a beautiful track that leads up to the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro.It then heads across the South Crater, over the edge of the Red Crater and down to the Emerald Lakes. From there it leads to the Blue Lake and then snakes down to the Ketetahi Hut and on out to the road. I

The walk takes about 7 hours and is considered to be one of New Zealand’s finest one-day walks. I find it breath taking, with different lights and colours every time I head over it.

This time I took two young London bankers who I thought would be totally lacking in fitness and stamina. Exercise to them, I thought, would be pressing the accelerator on the BMW. Needless to say youth prevailed and these two townies skipped ahead and waited regularly for the ‘fit’ dairy farmer. Unlike other walks, I found I was quite happy at my own pace. I felt none of that old urge to pace it out beside the keener, younger legs whether they belonged to the bankers, other tourists or hikers.

I decided that growing old is not the amount of grey hair, or the baldness. It is not the wrinkles or the stoop. It is the acceptance that one is no longer able to sustain the old pace. It is relaxing and something to be comfortable with. I made it over the crossing and enjoyed it all the way, but my pace could in no way be called competitive.

During the walk I pondered a recent publication that covered the new shape of the advisory side of the dairy industry, its new Centre of Excellence and the goals it is setting itself. I thought of the new chairman’s comments “… the poorest performance in the industry has been on the farm. Manufacturing has done its 4% over the past 10years…” and realised that I was getting old in the dairy industry too.

When I first joined the industry I would have praised such comments, because I felt it did me good to be pushed along. In the middle years such comments would have been like a red rag to a bull. I knew that my productivity improvements would have met the 4% and that an unqualified statement on the achievements of the manufacturing sector was as meaningless as the use of the words ‘poorest performance’ for the farmers. In the later years I stand back at an unemotional distance and let those that want to walk faster do so. I no longer have that burning desire to compete.

From my relaxed vantage point I consider that the Centre of Excellence has just been started so now is the starting point. The fact that my performance has exceeded the 4% is not relevant nor is the manufacturing sector’s past performance. I also ask myself if a self-employed farmer is bound by the same obligations to surge forward as an employee manager or executive within a dairy company. I wonder, too, if the increase in productivity might not just create a buffer that the industry leaders can use later in emergencies. If land prices are coaxed downwards to achieve 4% has anything but a shift from capital to taxable income, been obtained?

I am relaxed with my current situation. I have enjoyed the colours and lights as I walked through my years in the industry. I have no desire to force my situation forward at anything but my own pace. I consider myself entitled to a few years of relaxed farming where I can enjoy the assets that I have built up. Age is catching up, but I am enjoying it.

If some want to march ahead at a faster pace I welcome it. If funds have to be taken from my income to encourage them or to maintain the track they are going to walk then I am at ease with that too. If young people are going to be encouraged into the industry I am pleased. Some benefit will flow down to me as I stroll at my pace. When the time comes that I have fallen too far back physically, or financially, I will employ someone younger and keener to pick up the pace for me. If that is not a suitable option I will get out of the business. I will be yielding to the real pace setting pressure of the farming industry. In the meantime I have a lot more relaxed steady walking ahead of me.

Hopefully all the readers will be able to relax and enjoy the Christmas period to the full, before resuming again at their chosen pace in the New Year.

Season’s Greetings to you all.

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