Calvin Ball

Finalist Contestant Profiles header7


Eating the Elephant

Regional Sale Manager Calvin Ball is preparing to compete in this year’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Christchurch. It’s his second time competing for the prestigious title and this time, he’s here to win.

Growing up on a dairy farm in Northland, Ball says he had a typical upbringing in the dairy industry but has always had some big ambitions.

“I guess you could say I’ve always been the sort of person who strives to succeed. Leadership is a cornerstone of my personal development, any opportunity to put myself out of my comfort zone and get me thinking at a high level, I grab it”.

The 31-year-old completed a Bachelor of Agriscience at Massey University, during this time he was offered a scholarship which involved part time work with an agri-nutrient cooperative.This kick started his career, which has seen him rise quickly through the ranks.

“I realised early on that I form relationships quickly and I’m quite good at networking, which is hugely important in any industry, but especially the rural sector”.

A part-time role turned into a full time job opportunity when he graduated, starting off in Masterton as a nutrient specialist for sheep and beef farmers in the region.

“I’ll admit that was a challenge, coming off a dairy farm I had a bit to learn about sheep and beef systems. I must have done ok because they offered me a key account position after that”.

Another move to Tauranga saw Ball take up a short term position in the company's strategy team. Looking back he says his progression has been quick, but he’s not one to turn down a good offer.

Three years into his career and needing a bit of a break from the speed of his ladder climbing, it was time for an OE. He headed back to the UK, where he’d spent a year teaching before starting at Massey. The two-year working visa jaunt saw him working as a research analyst in London during the week, and travelling around Europe on the weekends.

“I love to travel and it was the perfect opportunity to get some work experience and some travelling too. After my visa expired I did another six-months and traveled around the Middle East, Africa and back through Asia”.

Once back on home soil, his previous employer had an opening. Having a good working knowledge of the company that kick started his career, he applied and after a short while was offered his current position as Regional Sales Manager for Northland.

“I guess I’ve come full circle to be working back in Northland now.  I have eight people in my team and I’m responsible for keeping the high performing team developing and encouraging the next round of leaders”.

As for what the future holds, right now he’s not looking too far past July and grand finals. That said, he’s got his eye on being involved in the primary industry at the farm gate level.

“A lot of land use change has happened in Northland in recent years, we’ve got some irrigation schemes coming up here and as it becomes more ‘tropical’ there will be a wider variety of fruit and vegetables able to be grown (which we are already seeing) so I’m quite keen to look into that a bit more”.

Young Farmers has played a huge role in Ball’s life and contributed greatly to his career successes. Having joined the local club wherever he was based for work, his professional and personal network now stretch right across the country.

“I’ve got so much out of Young Farmers. There are so many leadership and personal development opportunities that I’ve taken advantage of.

The networking opportunities are endless. I’m at a point now where I’m really trying to give back where I can and support Young Farmers in the same way they’ve supported me”.

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition had always been something of a social occasion for Ball in the past.

“Grand finals was something we always went along to as a club. It was very inspirational when I was in my early 20’s. When I started competing it was more to just have a go, rather than any ambition to win. It was a learning opportunity more than anything”.

This will be Ball’s second go at grand finals, his first being in 2016.

“Despite being here once before, I was initially a bit overwhelmed when I won regionals. I was up against some good quality people and to be honest, I didn’t think I’d win. But, I backed myself and managed to scoop up the win.

“Now that the reality of grand finals has set in, I’ve realised it’s a big job. So I’ve started chopping it into little jobs, eating the elephant as they say.”

Looking back at his 2016 shot at grand finals, Ball says he never realised then just how much work goes on behind the scenes.

“It’s a massive competition with a huge team of people needed to pull it off. I definitely took it for granted last time but now, I’m taking time to soak it all in and really be appreciative to everyone who makes this event happen and do what I can to ensure the competition continues for years to come”.

With a top notch idea for his innovation project and some annual leave booked before the competition in July, Ball says he’s feeling confident that he’ll pull out his best performance yet.

“I’ve got to nail down some practical skills and spend some time nosing the books but I have tremendous support from my region, friends, family and work colleagues.

I’m making no qualms about being here to win it and doing whatever it takes.”