MIGRANT SUCCESS STORIES:
DAIRY FARMING IN NZ WITH CHRISTOPHER VILA
By Ricky Matthew
Photo: Johans Lucena
Filipino-Kiwi Hero Award winner and New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year 2021, Christopher Vila, shares his story of moving up the ranks from a farm assistant to winning the top prize in dairy farming in New Zealand. A story involving switching both countries and career. A story that is echoed in the lives of other migrants like him.
What was your occupation in the Philippines and why the dairy industry?
I was a licensed veterinarian back home and when I first finished uni I worked for a multinational company as a farm consultant and as an area manager of a big firm which is concentrated mostly on swine and poultry.
After a year and a half of working there I decided to come here just to visit my sister and my brother-in-law. Basically, their whole family had started dairy farming. They asked me, why not try it? It was related to my profession anyway. So that is how it all started thirteen years ago.
With all of your awards, what are your success secrets?
There is no secret to having a successful career. You just need to do your work, have passion for it, do the best you can, stick to your principles and have a goal. That is very important to have a goal, because if you have a goal, then you are going to do the right things to achieve the goal.
How long did it take to rise up the ranks from farm assistant to farm manager?
It took me about six years. I went to about three different farms before I got the opportunity to manage a farm. It was very hard for a migrant like me, even though I have the CV to back it up, to have a management role back then. So, it took me six years and about another six years or so to give me the courage to enter the industry awards.
What are some of the challenges for an immigrant entering the dairy industry?
First and foremost, the culture. It is a big culture shock.
But second, it’s the isolation. Basically, you are in a farm, and you are very isolated.
And thirdly, it’s the thing they call the Kiwi way of farming. New Zealand has a different way of farming compared to other countries. Even as a trained vet it was hard for me because you are not only focused on one thing, but you are focused on everything about dairy farming. You can be a vet, you can be a plumber, a carpenter and all sorts of other things.
Of course, Kiwis always have a big thing for recommendations. When you are starting out you do not have the right network. I have been dairy farming for about 13 years and it is only now that I have this much of a network in the industry.
This is a big help, especially when you are trying to move up the ranks. One of the biggest things to get people to trust you here in New Zealand is through recommendations. That is really one of the biggest factors; it’s just networking.
Filipino-Kiwi Hero Awards: www.filipinoheroes.nz