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The year that was for a Zanda McDonald Award winner

05 June 2024

It’s been over 12 months since Mitch Highett received the prestigious Zanda McDonald award, and in that year a lot has changed for Mitch and his farm management business, Bullseye Ag. 

Each year, the Zanda McDonald award recognises one young person, each from Australia and New Zealand, who is passionate about making a difference in agriculture. 

“It’s been a busy year, to be honest,” Mitch said.  

As part of the award, Mitch won a personalised mentoring trip across Australia and New Zealand, and up to $10,000 towards a professional development course to support his career path. Alongside other finalists, he also gained access to industry mentors and networking events.  

When he wasn’t engaging with his award through international tours or mentoring events, Mitch was tending to a rapidly expanding business. 

“The exposure my business has gained through winning is unbelievable, and with that comes new people to work alongside to strengthen it even more,” Mitch said.  

Good to grow 

As well as rewarding progress, the MLA sponsored award for those aged between 21 to 35, aims to further people’s opportunities in the agricultural industry. 

“For me, a big learning opportunity was through the mentor trip, seeing how successful businesses got to where they are and being able to take some lessons out of that to apply to my business.” 

Mitch had already established Bullseye Ag when he won the award in 2023 and capitalized on the opportunity to gain expert advice on how to grow and strengthen his business, from learning potential debt structures to how to build a solid team.  

While there’s been big changes for his business, things look a little different for Mitch too.  

“I’ve got a lot more consideration about how to support younger people coming into the industry and how to support them reaching their goals.” 

“We’re a fair way past the old mentality that we’re ‘lucky’ to have a job, so how do we make a job, a work environment, and a culture more supportive and development-based for the people within it?” 

Focusing on the future 

With the Zanda McDonald award being in its tenth year – with the 2024 Australian award recently going to Tessa Chartres – Mitch has first-hand insight into its contribution to the industry, and impact on young people.  

“It’s vital. Being able to have mentors and see some of these businesses and how they’re operating gives young people like me encouragement to go out and take some of those risks,” Mitch said.  

Mitch’s top takeaways:

  1. Say yes to the opportunities that come your way, often more will come from it.
  2. Tell everyone you know what you’re trying to achieve. People can’t support you to reach your goals if they don’t know what you’re doing.
  3. Find the thing that makes you enjoy the industry. If you want to start a business there will be long hours, so you’ll want to enjoy it.