Innovation and joy in dairy farming: A conversation with Bart van de Ven

Innovation and joy in dairy farming: A conversation with Bart van de Ven

In the podcast episode featuring Bart van de Ven, a dairy farmer from Waikato, listeners are treated to a deep dive into the world of dairy farming that blends innovation with rural charm.

Van de Ven, a self-described rural visionary, manages 200 Jersey cows, which are thriving due to a vibrant summer and a strong global dairy trade. His enthusiasm for agriculture extends beyond his farm as he engages in community initiatives like local school crop competitions, aiming to ignite a passion for farming in younger generations. 

During the conversation, he speaks candidly about the realities of farming life. Despite the fluctuations inherent in the industry, such as breeding challenges and the impact of rising costs, he maintains an unwavering sense of joy and satisfaction. 

"I'm a ten right now, I don't want to take it too much for granted … I can bicker about the LSE semen that I put in my cows, I can bicker about the rising costs but overall, you've got to be happy."

This reflects his overall contentment and resilient spirit, which seems to be a common thread among those living the rural lifestyle. Van de Ven also touches on the political landscape, expressing a preference for market-driven incentives over government intervention in environmental issues. He highlights how industry-led initiatives, like the bonus from Nestle for upholding environmental standards, are preferable to governmental penalties. 

He believes that consumer choice should drive the market's direction. 

"If we're putting too much shit in our rivers, then the public will see and they'll stop buying our products," he says.

"The government doesn't need to tell me sort of what's right or wrong, the people will tell me that." 

His perspective is not isolated, during his weekly Monday night drinks with other locals, a shared sentiment emerges that the government should minimise its involvement in business affairs. 

Van de Ven shares an anecdote about the origins of these gatherings, which started during a particularly tough drought as a way to cope with the mental strain of farming. 

"I'm usually hanging around that eight and nine [on a satisfaction scale], and I thought, you know, I just put something on the Facebook group here in Springdale and I said I'm going to be at my place at 5:30 PM with a beer, if anyone wants to come along and have a drink, you're most welcome to. We had 15 people in the first meeting and we haven't stopped since."

Van de Ven's stories and insights offer a glimpse into the life of a farmer who, despite the challenges, finds a high level of satisfaction and resilience in his work.

Listen to the full chat between Bart van de Ven and Dominic George above.

To check out more episodes listen to the REX Podcast anytime on your favourite streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Rova or tune in to REX Mornings live on Magic from 5 am to 6 am every weekday.

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