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12 May 2015

Julie's Story

Julie and Brian Pirie both come from a long line of dairy farmers so you could easily say, they are experts about milk! They have a beautiful farm in the Waikato and as Fonterra Farmer Shareholders, are passionate advocates for the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme. They have seen first hand what the programme is doing for their community. Read more to find out their story and why we think they're local heroes.

From a farmers point of view, it makes me proud that we have a really good way of contributing back to the community

Julie Pirie, Fonterra Farmer Shareholder, Pirie Farms, Ngatea

Pirie Farm is nestled among the Hauraki Plains just outside of Ngatea in the heart of dairy country, the mighty Waikato. Julie and Brian Pirie along with their two daughters, Celine (16) and Ella (9) are actively involved in their local community.

Julie sat down with us to explain her thoughts about the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme and why she thinks it is such a great initiative.

Watch Julie's story here:

Julie and Brian Pirie have a proud family heritage of dairy farming in New Zealand and beyond. Julie's great great grandfather was a dairy farmer in England and moved out to New Zealand to settle in Taranaki. Every generation thereafter have also been dairy farmers and by the time Julie came along, her family were farming in Morrinsville and so were Brian’s. Instead of taking over their family farms, they have both worked their way up the farming ranks. There are quite a few steps involved in becoming a farmer so one thing that Julie loves about the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme is that it will potentially create a few more future farmers!

Julie is on the Board of Trustees at the local school, Ngatea Primary School, who have been part of the programme since June 2013. Julie says the interesting thing for her while seeing the programme in action is that there is far more to it than just the obvious benefits. She says that while the main benefit is the nutrition the kids get, it is also great to see the leadership opportunities arising with children becoming milk monitors and getting involved in the recycling process by learning what else can be made from the milk packs once they have been enjoyed.

We have got a finite resource in the world

As dairy farmers, the Pirie’s are very conscious of their environment. They make sure that the nutrients from their cows go back into their own farm land. They think it is great that the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme has such a strong recycling component. It really resonates with the sort of things they are thinking about in terms of environmental importance on their own farm.

Over the last 6 years, Julie has organised the calf club at Ngatea School. “There was a real need to connect children in town with the farm” so naturally running a calf club was something she knew; something that the children would get rewarded for and it would teach them new skills. It is a 12 week programme where the kids appear in August to choose their calves. Then over the next few weeks, they care for them, feed them and teach them to be led. In late October, they take those calves in front of judges and show how well they have done. The winners get ribbons and Julie says it’s really neat watching their faces when they see all of their hard work has paid off.


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An opportunity arose for Julie and her calf club kids when the Fonterra Milk for Schools Auckland Anniversary Event took place at Avondale Primary School. As a member of the Fonterra Shareholders Council, Julie was asked to bring the farm to the city. It provided a great experience for the children to see what a working farm was all about and meet some real farm kids!

Julie thinks it’s a great idea for other schools to visit dairy farms.  She says the practical experience is invaluable and a lot of the kids don’t realise that they can come and work on a farm and become a dairy farmer – even if they have grown up in the city. All they need is enthusiasm, a love for the outdoors and a willingness to work hard.

To learn more about Pirie Farms, visit their website.


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