From hip hop to sheep and beef farming: Meet Junior Taulago
The story of 28-year-old Samoan farmer Junior Taulago is one of daring to follow your dreams, even if your first choice doesn’t work out. As John Pulu reports, disappointment on the dance-floor has led to love and a new life in rural Hawke’s Bay.
Deep in the rolling meadows of the Hawke’s Bay region is where you will find beef and sheep farmer Junior Taulago.
“Farming is, you reap what you sow, you know. So if you work hard, you get the rewards,” Junior says.
“I love it cos it’s the lifestyle for me, and nothing beats being out and doing the work.”
Based in rural Pātoka, the 28-year-old Samoan is the manager of a 560-hectare farm where he looks after 2000 sheep and 1000 cattle destined for the domestic and international markets.
“The job [was an] awesome opportunity for me and my wife and little family to move up here for my first kind of managing role, and it came with a really good challenge and a good rewarding pathway.
“We’ve been in farming for about five years now, and we thought if we don’t make the job now, we will never do it.”
The Taulago family moved up to Hawke’s Bay from Masterton after four years of work and study and so far, Junior’s wife Frankie is settling in just fine.
“City life ain’t for us anymore, that’s for sure,” Frankie says.
“Just being able to be out here, fresh air and peaceful quietness, and yeah we really enjoy this lifestyle and just everything that comes with it.”
So they’ve found greener pastures here, but it was a different story in 2011 when Junior was studying to become a social worker in his hometown of Christchurch.
“I only done one year of it and I was like, man, I really don’t enjoy it,” Junior says.
“It wasn’t my passion, and I was just doing it just to get by (and) to make my mum and dad proud, and I thought, man, if I’m not enjoying it then what’s the point?”
That’s when he decided to follow his other passion, hip hop dancing, and that’s when he met Frankie.
In 2014 Junior and Frankie enrolled at the Agriculture school in Masterton. A few years later they graduated, got married and now Frankie works in the tech side of the industry while Junior works his way up the ranks.
“In some ways, you’re kind of your own boss, you know,” Junior says.
“Being able to drive around, you know, work outdoors is something I really enjoy and just also being hands on you know, practical stuff.”
It’s hard work but rewarding – something Junior’s learnt from his upbringing.
“We came from nothing, you know. Mum and Dad moved here when I was 6 with nothing. We just worked and got to where we are. So yeah, Mum and Dad really paved the way for us to be able to do something with our lives, so I owe it to them for what we have.”
Junior is also sharing the love on social media to motivate his followers to take up farming.
“I put videos up of what I do from day to day and just to make it fun,” he says.
“Sometimes you look at a mob and you’re just shifting a mob and you go, man, that’s boring, but then I make it kind of fun you know and it just makes my job a bit more attractive and fun to do.
“And now and then I dance with some sheep and some cattle just to break up the day, nah it’s all about having fun and farming.”
He hopes to create a legacy for his family and so far, he’s got his daughter Eilee is on board.
“I am thankful that we can pass it on to our kids when they grow up,” he says.
“I want to give my kids what I didn’t have growing up, so yeah, we’re blessed.”
For now, Junior is making hay while the sun shines.
“I am still learning my role and still learning my job and [we can] earn our way into like an equity partnership role so we can be part of a farm.
“Quietly keep working, it will come.”