Uni job becomes dream job

3 August 2019

Mark’s diverse career has included running Fonterra’s demonstration and training farm in Pannala, Sri Lanka. He’s seen here donating a cow from Fonterra to a local farmer.

Fate may have led DairyNZ’s new Taranaki regional leader, Mark Laurence, into dairying but it was passion that made it a career.


Mark, who starts at DairyNZ on August 1, was introduced to dairying while studying an arts degree at Massey University in 1999. His now-wife Sarah was working for AgServices, which managed the Massey University farms – she suggested Mark should work there while studying.

“It was an accident really. I was like, ‘Yeah’ I’ll give it a crack while I am doing an arts degree’ – three years later I was still there,” says Mark.

“I never had any intention of doing anything in agriculture – it paid some bills while I was at uni and it was a convenient job after university. But then it snowballed, and it’s where I got my grounding.

“I love the dairy industry. Working for Massey introduced me to so many different aspects, from getting up at 4am and milking cows, to the research, and the broader industry interactions, so that’s why I thought, ‘This is pretty brilliant’.

“And of course, you get to deal with good people. I would quite happily spend all day talking to farmers.”

Mark has gone on to enjoy a wide and varied career, most recently as an area manager for Fonterra. Previously, he’s been a consulting officer in Northland (for DairyNZ’s predecessor, Dexcel), and managed a large dairy operation in Manawatu.

One of his more interesting roles saw him running a training and development farm in Sri Lanka for Fonterra, an experience that put New Zealand’s dairy sector into perspective for him.

Mark in Sri Lanka with two of his former staff members, Iroshana and Harshan.

“New Zealand is in an enviable position. What we’ve got compared to other countries is massive – we have advantages that have been developed through hard work and ingenuity,” says Mark.

“Sri Lanka was an amazing country to live and work in. I was there doing an on-farm job but Fonterra was there to sell New Zealand milk, so being at that end of the supply chain was very interesting and rewarding.”

Mark is looking forward to the move to Taranaki from Palmerston North. It’s a return home, of sorts, as his parents live in Waitara, where he’ll stay initially.

“Taranaki is dairying heartland, so I’m pretty excited. Going back to be closer to family is also attractive.

“I’m looking forward to getting out to meet farmers in the region and helping them respond to various challenges and opportunities.”

This article was originally published in Inside Dairy August 2019


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