Adam and Maria Barkla are award-winning contract milkers in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand. After winning ‘Share Farmer of the Year’ at the Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards earlier this year, we spoke to Maria about how they’ve grown their business, Green to Gold, over the last five years.
What’s your story? How did you get into farming?
I came to New Zealand from Argentina with the idea of travelling and working part time. I was working at the New World supermarket in Remuera when I met my husband, Adam. He wanted to help me learn English so we got to know each other. A little while later…we had our first daughter!
We moved to Whakatane, Adam’s home town to settle our family. We started working on the family farm for Adam’s uncle and aunt, and two seasons later we were contract milking on a newly purchased farm in Galatea. Since then another two farms were added to the portfolio and we formed Green to Gold, which over the three properties milks 1,800 cows. We have nine amazing staff who have helped us build a great culture within the farming operation.
How are you enjoying the farming life now?
I love it! Adam runs the farms and I manage all the back office work that needs to be done, such as paying the staff for each farm. I’ve learnt so much over the past five years, the biggest lesson being that farming is not easy! Not only do you need to have a deep understanding of the farm you’re running, but you also need to be financially literate and understand business.
What’s the most rewarding/exciting part of your work?
The idea that we’re feeding the world. Without farmers, there’s no food. I never thought I’d end up with this as my career but I find it so rewarding knowing we are creating food for people all around the world.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the dairy industry at the moment?
Keeping up with compliance is seen by many as a huge challenge, often leading to low confidence amongst farmers. But we see compliance in a different way. We believe it’s creating a better, cleaner world, especially for our children who want to stay in farming in the future.
How did you find out about Xero and what made you decide to start using it?
My accountant told me about Xero and encouraged me to use it. I’ve just found it so easy to use and I’m able to do a lot of the accounts on my own now.
What is your relationship with your accountant and banker?
I’m lucky to have a close relationship with my accountant, who has taught me everything I know. I can do a lot on my own, but when I do have questions, they’re very helpful.
We also work closely with our bank manager at Westpac. Westpac actually set up a group of contract milkers like us, so we could all compare financials and run benchmarking, which is super helpful. Because we use Xero we were able to demonstrate our financial literacy and share reports with the group a lot easier than some of the others. Through that group we were able to change some of our margins after comparing our numbers with others in the industry.
How has using Xero changed the way you run your business?
We’ve been contract milking for five years and over that time we’ve grown pretty fast. I believe taking ownership of your business is the only way you can grow quickly. Using Xero resources, I’ve been able to upskill myself on running a business and get a comprehensive view of how the business is tracking. It’s so easy to use Xero, I picked it up straight away. . There is so much help out there – whether it’s in Xero Central or watching the Education Month webinars, you can teach yourself a lot.
What are your goals for the next three to five years?
We’re excited for the next phase of our business. In five years we want to buy into the Galatea farms so we are focused on keeping the business moving so we can afford to reach that goal.