Eric Fa'anoi: From city slicker to award-winning farmer

Eric Fa'anoi: From city slicker to award-winning farmer

Continuing on with the New Zealand Dairy Industry Regional Awards, the Taranaki event happened over the weekend, where Eric Fa'anoi was crowned the winner of the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year category.

Fa'anoi's story begins with his unexpected shift from working as a freshwater advisor to embracing the agricultural lifestyle on a 330-cow farm. His academic background in environmental science and chemistry gives him a unique edge in the farming world, especially in sustainable practices and environmental regulation. 

"I've always loved farming, so it all worked out quite well," he says.

One of the most compelling aspects of Fa'anoi's journey is how he has intertwined his love for football with his farming career. Despite suffering an early hip injury, Eric remained connected to the sport, transitioning into a managerial role for sports teams. His familial connections to football run deep, as his father and cousins share his enthusiasm for the game. 

This intersection of rural life and sports passion embodies the resilience often found in rural communities. Fa'anoi reminisces about his time at the Horizons Regional Council, where he started as a freshwater advisor, engaging with farmers and landowners. 

"I enjoyed it a lot and I still enjoy the environmental side of stuff, and I think it does apply to farming."

His story highlights the importance of bridging the gap between academic knowledge and practical skills in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, Fa'anoi's Samoan heritage adds another layer to his farming narrative. He speaks fondly of his return to Samoa after nearly two decades and the stories of his grandfather and uncles, revered horticulturists in their village. 

The contrast between the farming techniques in Samoa and New Zealand is not lost on Fa'anoi, who acknowledges the diverse global farming systems. He expresses a desire to learn from international agricultural practices in the future. 

As the conversation wraps up, it's clear that his win as the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year is just the beginning of Fa'anoi's story. 

"I always need to be moving forward," he declares, indicating his constant drive for growth and learning. 

Listen to the full chat between Eric Fa'anoi and Dominic George above.

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