Did you know that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the National Rural Ambassador Award? To celebrate, we’ve been catching up with the 19 individual who have held the prestigious title since 2001. We look forward to announcing number 20 next month at the Ekka.

Tim van de Molen’s been busy kicking goals since he won the national rural ambassador award in 2012. He achieved his goal of farm ownership by age 30 (with a month to spare) later that same year and in 2013 won the New Zealand Young Farmer of the Year title. 

Tim was working as a rural manager with ANZ in the Waikato (the largest dairy farming region in NZ) and managing a portfolio of farming clients across dairy, sheep and beef, and horticulture when he won the award. Outside of work, he was heavily involved with the NZ Young Farmers organisation, having served three terms on the national Board, and was also busy with the RAS as a Waikato Councillor. Not one to be idle, Tim was also serving in the NZ Army Reserves as an Infantry Officer.

Fast forward to today and he’s the Member of Parliament for Waikato and represents one of the key agricultural regions in NZ. He and wife Hilary are raising Isobella (5) and Arthur (3), managing their farm which they converted from dairy grazers and maize to asparagus in 2014, and another block they bought in 2015 where they grow maize and grass for dairy farmers. The family has also had business interests in the retail, service and online spaces. 

Tim first stepped into the show arena before he’d even stepped into a classroom. While he’s always held a long connection with the land and a passion for agricultural shows, he says the rural ambassador program gave him confidence in the agricultural sector’s future. 

“I found it hugely reassuring to know that our industry had a wide range of talented individuals developing into our future leaders, many of whom were already playing significant leadership roles,” he said. 

“I’ve always made a point of surrounding myself with positive and motivated people. Success breeds success and I had a number of senior figures across Young Farmers and RAS encourage me to enter.”

Tim considers the networks he developed to be the most valuable addition to his tool kit and said he feels incredibly fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to take part in the program. 

“There continue to be many challenges facing our diverse primary industries and having connections across many sectors is critical to remaining informed, and helps to present a more cohesive approach to key issues. And of course, it’s just great connecting with such wonderful people,” he said. 

“Rural communities are the heart and soul of our country with such down to earth people making a massive contribution to social and economic well being. I spend a lot of time in Wellington now, but love getting home to the farm.”