2018 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Thomas Macdonald, a third-generation dairy farmer raised in Gordonton, Hamilton, is the most recent recipient of the award. Macdonald is the Business Manager for Spring Sheep Milk Company in Taupo. There he heads up the management for Farming Systems - Sheep Horizon 3, a New Zealand MPI Primary Growth Partnership program for the NZ sheep dairy industry.


Macdonald is tasked with running the farm development, farm operations and on-farm R&D programs for the 3,5000 sheep across the company’s farming group. He is also involved with a number of key projects at Spring Sheep Milk including the establishment of a farmer supplier co-operative, the development of a pilot farm (research farm) and publishing a technical manual to increase industry knowledge.


At just 24 years of age, Macdonald has a strong vision and desire to see New Zealand agricultural products championed on the world stage, and believes connections in the industry between NZ and Australia are critical to further developing a stronger agribusiness sector.


Other achievements include completing a Masters of Management (First Class Honours) in Agricultural Economics, having four published papers, being a committee member of the Rural Business Network, and also being involved with the NZ Fieldays as a past Sir Don Lewellyn scholar.


Macdonald feels privileged to have taken out the 2018 award, and sees it as a huge opportunity to spend time with some of agriculture’s top business professionals, and expand his horizons and networks.


Thomas is married to wife Megan, enjoys water skiing during the summer months, and flying his recently acquired drone whenever he gets a spare moment.

2017 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Morgan Easton, the most recent recipient of the award, hails from NZs Waitaki Valley, where both his father and grandfather were mixed farming and cropping farmers. The original property was converted to dairy in the early 1990s and sold, after which the family bought another sheep and beef farm on the northern side of the Waitaki River and also converted it to dairy. The current Papakaio property Twin Terraces was bought by his parents, David and Clare, in 2008.


Easton completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science Degree at Lincoln University, spending his last year at Cornell University in upstate New York.

On his return to New Zealand, he worked for Dexcel (now DairyNZ) for 18 months, based out of Dunedin. He was then awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and obtained a Master of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, in Indiana.

While in the United States, Easton’s parents told him they were looking at the Papakaio property and discussed the possibility of him returning home to help them develop and run the property.


In 2013, Easton and his wife, Hayley, won the Canterbury-North Otago Sharemilker-Equity Farmer of the Year title, and went on to be runners-up in the national competition. That year he also attended the US-NZ Pacific Partnership Forum in Washington DC.


Easton, along with his wife and parents have subsequently bought a neighbouring farm which they have redeveloped. The couple, who have three young children, are now sharemilking the two properties, milking a total of 1750 cows, and the synergies between the two - including sharing staff and machinery - worked well, he said.

Thrilled to have taken out the 2017 award, Easton was particularly attracted to the tailored mentoring provided by PPP members. He is using the opportunity to tap into their expertise on how best to continue growing and thriving in a family business. 


Not one for resting on his laurels, he also has his private plane licence, and is a registered Marriage Celebrant.

2016 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Dean Rabbidge, a sheep, beef and dairy farmer from Wyndham, Southland was the winner of the 2016 Zanda McDonald Award. Dean is married to Sarah, and together they have two children Ted (3 years) and Ida (5 months).

Rabbidge is passionate about his agricultural responsibilities – not least running the family farm – and found the award a superb opportunity to talk through any challenges with some of the most knowledgeable producers in the business.

“Just knowing that I can contact any one of the PPP Group to talk through issues gives me a great sense of comfort. I now have a strong support network that will help me unleash my potential, as well as that of my business, realise my ambition of encouraging more young people into agriculture, and help me to promote a positive perception of agriculture across urban areas” he said.

The 32-year old Southland farmer has already crammed much into his life but he is not ready to relax, intent not only on improving and growing his business but defending what he views as a bad rap that farming is receiving from some quarters.

Rabbidge’s CV includes placing third in the 2014 Grand Final of the Young Farmer of the Year and fifth in 2013. He is now chairman of the National Young Farmers Contest, is a member of the Wyndham A&P Association and former member of the Wyndham Community Board. He also recently become a trustee and founding member of the "Three Rivers Catchment" group, established to engage with all sectors of society and educate around the management of fresh water. 

In addition, Rabbidge has overseen the conversion to dairy and the day-to-day management of 72ha on his family’s Wyndham farm, run in conjunction with a 406ha sheep and beef unit. 

He took the opportunity with the award to study farm succession, business growth and business structure, which he found invaluable. Dean and Sarah have recently purchased the property off the family - a process that was assisted with the advice and experiences of PPP members.

Community involvement is a real passion for Rabbidge, and he still (some say foolishly) plays rugby for the Wyndham Division 1 Team.

2015 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Emma Black, a Beef Extension Officer from Western Queensland took out the inaugural Zanda McDonald Award in 2015.  Emma is from Colanya Station near Longreach and works for the Queensland Department of Agriculture.. 

Black has a diverse range of agricultural experience, including animal nutrition consulting, beef production systems, grazing land management, meat science, innovation and new technologies, and analysis of beef performance.  


Contribution to the industry has been a key focus for Black, having developed an agricultural science program at her local school, spending seven years on the committee for the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging program, and coaching the Australian National Meat Judging team for four years. She has also been recognised for her contribution to the industry, by receiving a UNE Young Distinguished Alumni Award, and being listed as one of the 100 most influential women in Australian agribusiness.


Winning the award opened a number of doors for Black, by way of professional development and career opportunities. “The Zanda McDonald Award provided an incredible opportunity for me through a tailored mentoring program. This allowed me to be mentored by some of the most successful, innovative, knowledgeable and well respected people in the Australian and NZ agriculture industries. While the mentoring program was for 12 months, the networking and mentoring is now ongoing with the PPP Group, which provides me with a comfortable environment to learn, to discuss future ideas, challenge my thoughts and develop my career moving forward.” she said.


Black is passionate about paying it forward, by mentoring the next generation of young producers. She is particularly motivated by those who share her love of agriculture, and working in the field. 


Since winning the award, Black has studied a Graduate Certificate in Agribusiness, and has some exciting opportunities on the horizon. But for the moment, she’s focusing on motherhood, having had her first child Corey in April this year.

Please reload


© 2020 Platinum Primary Producer Group