The Great South West Dairy Awards recognise energetic farmers going above and beyond to drive the industry's success.
And at the 2022 event, Renata Cumming earned herself the Young Dairy Leader Award, while Melanie Ackerley was named runner-up.
Judges noted Renata's passion for dairy and the broader agricultural industry and said she demonstrated strong leadership skills.
Receiving the award was humbling for Renata, who lives on a dairy farm at Scotts Creek, south-west Victoria, with her partner Matt Grant.
She was drawn to the dairy industry after studying Agriculture at the University of Melbourne's Dookie Campus.
With no specific career in mind, the greater number of job prospects in dairying led to an exciting opportunity to explore what the industry had to offer.
A three-month job on a dairy farm in Maffra to assist a farm with calving, led to nearly five years of working on-farm in varying sized dairy operations in East Gippsland.
"It felt important to really experience life on a dairy farm before stepping into a service provider role," Renata said.
Having worked in milk processing and service provider roles, with a keen interest in facilitation and event delivery, she has been involved in organising many events.
"I love attending events where there is a buzz of networking and learning, and that's what I strive to achieve if I'm engaged in any event planning," she said.
Renata has been involved in the organisation of many farm discussion days, field days and larger events like the Dookie Open Day and the Fodder Festival for the Australian Fodder Industry Association.
More recently, along with her friends Chloe Brown and Lucy Collins, she founded the Cream of the Crop conference, an event to bring like-minded women from the dairy industry together, to connect, discover and inspire each other.
Held in February 2022, and a roaring success, the event is now being organised to run annually.
"The idea initially came about because Lucy and I had moved from northern Victoria to be with farming partners, and it's not always easy to meet people," she said.
"Creating an event for women who are looking to learn and network seemed like a great idea."
Renata believes leadership isn't just a formal role, it is also about listening, asking questions about what others want and getting stuck in to make something you believe in happen.
She felt incredibly honoured to be nominated and to receive the Young Dairy Leader Award and hoped others might be inspired to be involved in the things she believed in.
"I hope to see more young people standing up for the things they want out of the industry and I think that we need to be open to supporting what young people want more of," she said.
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Looking forward and planning for the future are important to Renata and her partner Matt when it comes to dairy farming.
They like to be in a position to take up opportunities when they present themselves, explaining that they apply for grants, take part in trials and attend discussion days to help push them forward.
Beyond the farm gate, Renata tries to support events, industry groups and people whenever she can, and believes social media can be used for good too.
"I have an Instagram account where we share what's happening around the farm, we're doing so many good things on-farm and as an industry, and I think it's important to paint a good picture for consumers," she said.
John and Rochelle Pekin won the Natural Resource and Sustainability Management Award.
The Pekins impressed judges with their ability to integrate both productivity and sustainability goals into their dairy farm business, proactively seeking out the latest information and trialing new approaches.
Tim and Marie Humphris took out the runner-up award.
In a unanimous decision, Karen Angus' entry 'Red Hot Summer' won the Farm Photo Award, while the runner up photo was taken by Janine Thow.
Meaghan Johnston from Bega was awarded the Service Provider Award, after impressing judges with her dedication, passion and commitment to the industry, and James O'Brien was awarded runner-up.
In the Employee Award, new farmer Liz Mackley took the honours, winning the category.
She impressed judges with her ability to learn, process and apply new skills, while the runner-up was Jeffery Caballero.
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Maryke Roux took out one of the premier awards of the night - Dairy Farm Business Management.
Judges commented that she displayed an insatiable passion and energy for the business, and demonstrated exemplary performance in planning, delivery, communication and commitment to business management.
Jason Karney was awarded runner-up.
The evening concluded with the induction of Colac dairy farmer, Mark Billing to the regional industry Honour Board.
"Mark has made outstanding contributions to the region's dairy industry over a long period," the judges said.
"His passion, capability and commitment shine through, backed up by several leadership positions which have earned him respect within and beyond the dairy industry.
"He is willing to contribute to the development of the industry and mentor others."
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