Two future leaders in agriculture have been crowned as the 2023 winners of Australasia’s coveted agricultural award, the Zanda McDonald Award. New Zealander Harriet Bremner, 33, and Australian Mitch Highett, 33, have taken out top honours with the award that recognises and supports exceptional young professionals in the primary sector.
Bremner is a farmer at Jericho Station, Southland, a children's book author, and the founder and director of Gurt and Pops Ltd. She is also a health, safety and well-being advocate for agriculture, and received the 2021 Rural Women NZ Rural Champion Award.
Mitch Highett lives in Orange NSW, and is the Founder and Managing Director of Bullseye Ag. His farm management company works alongside farms across NSW and QLD with an area totalling over 500,000 acres. He also has a cattle enterprise consisting of approximately 250 breeders, and assists farmers through the Rural Assistance Authority and as Chair of the NSW Young Farmers.
Richard Rains, Chairman of the Zanda McDonald Award, says “Harriet and Mitch are very deserving winners, and as judges we were really impressed with the impacts they’re making in their respective careers. Whilst they’re carving out quite different paths, they both possess many of the same qualities, including a strong sense of leadership, determination and spirit. This award will help put some wind under their wings, and help them go even further, through the unique benefits that this award provides. We’re excited to see what the future holds for them both, and helping them on their journeys.”
Bremner and Highett were named as finalists alongside Jacques Reinhardt, 34, Agribusiness Specialist at Baker Ag Wairarapa NZ; Monica Schwass, 31, Future Farming Manager at The NZ Merino Company, Charles Vaughan, 29, Queensland Operations Co-ordinator/Group Veterinarian for Australian Cattle Enterprises and Director of Charles Vaughan Veterinary Services Pty Ltd; and Sarah Groat, 34, Development Officer for government Agtech program “Farms of the Future”, for the Department of Primary Industries. Each year the award selects one winner from each country.
The announcement took place at the Zanda McDonald Award Celebration evening in Brisbane on Wednesday, as part of the Awards’ inaugural two-day Impact Summit. The Summit is a new initiative bringing together industry leaders, previous award finalists and winners to connect, elevate thought, and inspire positive changes, both personally and professionally.
Bremner and Highett each pick up an impressive prize package that includes a tailored mentoring trip in both countries, $10,000 worth of education or training of their choice, media coaching, and more. The pair will travel by a private Pilatus jet to parts of their mentoring trips, enabling them to reach diverse and remote agricultural enterprises.