‘‘THIS is a farming family who are very passionate about farming and the people associated with it. They are leaders on the farming front while also finding enough time to spend in the community driving different events [and] they are willing to give you the shirt off their back.’’

That is just one of the citations from nominations for the Otago Daily Times and Rural Life 2023 Year of the Farmer initiative, celebrating the South Island’s food-producing champions. And it sums up the common theme amid the screeds received.

‘‘They’re all-round great people.’’

‘‘Farmers like . . . and his brother are salt-of-the-earth and are extremely dedicated to the land, their animals and to life on the land.’’

‘‘. . . go the extra mile to support young people wanting to enter the farming sector.’’

‘‘. . . is literally the embodiment of what the farming industry should be, she is a great role model for our young female farmers on what can be achieved with some hard work and good farming practices.’’

‘‘He believes in creating great rural communities for families and is an advocate for getting into and staying in farming even when times are tough.

‘‘She is just a living legend.’’

The nominations make for heartwarming — and, at times, even emotional — reading, and reflect exactly why we implemented this initiative; to showcase the work of farmers to create an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable future, while also making a positive contribution to their rural communities.

They are the epitome of rural New Zealand; humble, hardworking folk who would rather be out with their Herefords, hoggets or harvester than hogging the headlines.

There are young and old, men and women and a wide-range of diverse farming and growing operations represented, along with a cornucopia of community contribution.

Now, the hard work — at our end — begins. A selection of rural champions will be profiled in a special publication in August. A judging panel — which includes Otago’s own man of the land, media personality and Chatto Creek farmer Matt Chisholm — will then select finalists.

In October, one outstanding food producer will be named as the winner of the Year of the Farmer, receiving a prize pack valued at $10,000, including a special Wanaka experience in conjunction with the Wanaka A&P Association.

So a heartfelt thank you to those nominated for continuing to contribute to the engine room of New Zealand’s economy; to those who took the time to nominate their own rural heroes; and to our major sponsors (RD Petroleum and Silver Fern Farms), Wanaka A&P Association and our other valued supporters for coming to our primary industry party. There is still time for anyone wanting to support this campaign to sign up.

I look forward to sharing the stories of our rural champions with you.