Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

JCDAF Dairy Farms LTD: An admirable shared journey of sacrifice, service and success in the dairy sectors of New Zealand and the Philippines

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This second write-up on Filipinos in the dairy sector in New Zealand focuses on the admirable and exemplary journey of Mr. Neil Molina who is blessed with his GOD given talents, credentials, exposure and experiences in veterinary medicine and dairy farming and who has been featured by Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion in his article entitled “From Farm Worker to Farm Owner.” Neil’s inspiring story and insights have been shared with participants in the Agri-Negosyo Summit held in Manila on 25 July 2014, his talks before students in Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) and his alma mater, Catanduanes State University and visits to dairy farms and Dairy Training and Research Institute during his trip back to the Philippines with his family last July. Everywhere he went and unselfishly shared his knowledge, skills and advice in dairy farming, Neil captured the hearts and minds of his audience, friends and farm colleagues and stressed the importance of hard work, perseverance, sacrificial service, positive attitude, hands on work, goal setting and living one’s dreams.

As a recognized trailblazer in the dairy sector, Neil is blessed and supported by his wonderful and loving family with wife, Myra and their three beautiful children Jhiro aged 12, Daffodil, 11 and Clyde, 6 who are in primary level at St John’s School, Ranfurly, New Zealand. Armed with a degree as a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine and an awardee for Best Thesis on Large Animal Practice from UPLB where he studied from 1990-1997, Neil worked for two years right after graduation as a veterinarian at the Philippine Genetics Incorporated (PGI) based in Manila servicing beef and dairy farms around the Philippines and was able to travel around the Philippines and Australia. From 1998-2001, Neil was employed by Joseph Server and Associates Inc. as a turnaround Manager setting up management systems on dairy and beef farms from Luzon to Mindanao. His continuing and deepening love for dairy was fuelled when he set up a family dairy farm in San Pablo, Laguna with the help of his father and the rest of the family. From 2001 to 2007, they started with 25 cows and increased the herd to 100 cows until they sold the business to Batangas Agribusiness Corporation. He also managed the Batangas Dairy Cooperative in Batangas from 2001 to 2006 and it was during this time that the coffee shop businesses were starting to flourish and the cooperative supplied the dairy products to one of the leading chain of coffee shops in the Philippines.

According to Neil, “after two years, we decided to move to New Zealand in search of a greener pasteur” and he worked as a dairy farm worker in a 450 cow dairy farm learning the advanced farming systems and technologies in New Zealand from 2003-2004. His first farm employment and experience in New Zealand became even more meaningful and memorable when he and his wife chose the homebirth option for their second child, Daffodil who was born on a dairy farm. Neil moved back his family in Batangas from 2004-2006 when he continued to manage the cooperative farm applying the know-how and skills he learned from New Zealand in operating the farm, milking and raising cows. Faced with the reality of providing for the growing needs of his family, Neil decided to return to New Zealand in 2006 when he was employed as the second man in charge of GK Kirkwood Farms Ltd. for two years. To date, Neil is the Farm Operations Manager of a 2500 cow farm in Ranfurly, New Zealand.

Recognition for Neil’s dedication and capability in dairy farming came when he was chosen as the Best Farm Manager of the Year from Otago during the Dairy Industry Awards in Balchutha on 6 April 2013. His regional title is part of the annual search for farmers from different parts in New Zealand and at various levels of the dairy industry who excel and achieve significant milestones to qualify for Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, Farm Manager of the Year and Dairy Trainee of the Year. Neil also received the AgITO Human Resources Management Award and the Farmer/Trainer of the Year 2012. He is employed by Greg and Kelly Kirkwood who have 13 Filipinos out of 15 dairy workers taking care of 2,500 cows. As a Farm Manager, Neil contributed immensely to maximizing operations for high production, ensuring good staff support and teamwork and upgrading farm efficiency. He proudly pointed out that the farm he is managing may not have the latest technology but the skills, sacrificial service and positive work attitude of the farm workers and staff and the full support of their employers are the keys to the continuing success and viability of their farm in Ranfurly. The spotlight on Neil continued to shine as he was also featured in the cover of the Guide for Migrant Dairy Farm Workers produced by Immigration New Zealand, invited to speak at Lincoln University (NZ) on managing foreign staff and featured on New Zealand national television and newspapers.

Neil’s progressive journey to achieving higher goals in the dairy sector in New Zealand marked another milestone in 2009 when he and his wife set up the JCDAF Dairy Farms Ltd., named after their three children. Blessed with advice and guidance from their employers, their positive and encouraging track record in dairy farming and overflowing faith and purpose, Neil and Myra negotiated that part of their wages be in terms of dairy animals (30 a year) which they then used as a leverage to borrow money from the bank to buy more stocks. As of 2013 to 2014 Season, JCDAF Dairy farms Limited owns 350 cows and 30 yearlings. By 1 June 2014, JCDAF sold 320 cows. Neil and Myra have set their sights on buying more cows and go equity farming in the next two years.

With their continued success and opportunities and prospects for a brighter and more secure future in the dairy industry, Neil and Myra kept in their hearts and demonstrated in their lives the value of giving back to the community and paying it forward. In New Zealand, Neil generously shared his time, talent and advice when he spoke before a large group of Filipino dairy workers and members of the Filipino community during the seminar on “Progression in the in the Dairy Industry” organized by the Association of Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand (FDWNZ) as part of its information sharing and skills development programmes on 13 July 2013 in Ashburton, South Island. In his presentation, Neil talked about his early years and entry into dairy farming in New Zealand and how he and his family have learned to adjust into the way of life of the local community. He shared the opportunities and challenges in working in the farm as well as lessons learned along the way. Emphasizing the importance of hard work, dedication, patience, persistence and passion in pursuing one’s dream and goals, Neil showed in concrete terms the gradual progress he has made in advancing his position and financial returns in the dairy industry availing of incentives and loans available to dairy farmers. Neil and Myra are also managing their equity investments in the dairy farm to secure their family’s future. Before ending his talk, Neil gave useful advice to fellow Filipino workers in the dairy sector so they too can attain their goals, develop their business skills and rise up in the various stages to eventually become share milkers, investors and owners of dairy farms. His love and commitment to help the Philippines develop its dairy industry have been clearly manifested as he spent time and tirelessly went around the country giving talks, seminars, advice and demonstrations before students, farmers and other groups while he and his family were on a much deserved holiday in Manila last July.

As Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez stated, “Neil and Myra are shining examples of the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit, positive mind set and sacrificial attitude to help make a distinctive difference in people’s lives, build a more secure future for their family and contribute to the development of their home country, the Philippines and their adoptive country, New Zealand through their GOD-given talents, extensive experience and valuable opportunities in the dairy farm sector. They and the thousands of Filipinos in the dairy industry continue to change the dynamics of the farms.”

In Neil Molina’s own words, “FOCUS on what you LOVE and DREAM BIG, fuel it with GREAT ATTITUDE and for sure SUCCESS will be on your side.”

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