By Molly Houseman
Alec Muir has become the first flour miller in South Canterbury to win the New Zealand Flour Millers Association’s tier one Barris Sherris scholarship.
The $10,000 award, which will roll over until international travel opens up again, will enable him to head to the United States to further his knowledge in the industry.
Mr Muir (23) is the quality assurance manager at Farmers Mill in Washdyke, where Barris Sherris himself – who pushed for learning in the industry and spent many hours supporting and training flour-milling students – once worked.
The news of his success broke while he was away on holiday and his work phone was at home.
When he returned home late on a Saturday, he noticed he had received many “congratulations” messages from people in the industry.
“I thought what is this? What are you congratulating me for? What have I done?” he said.
That was until he discovered a message from the flour millers association notifying him of his success.
“I was literally jumping for joy.
“I was so excited – I burst out of my room to tell my mum and dad.”
He hoped to use the scholarship money to study a dough and flour analysis course at Kansas State University, which would provide him with valuable knowledge to bring back to New Zealand.
Mr Muir, who started at Farmers Mill five years ago as an assistant miller, originally thought it would be a good side job until he could get his truck licence to become a truck driver.
However, he had not gone truck-driving yet and was happy with it staying that way, he said.
“I love it here [at Farmers Mill].”
He enjoyed the job and the people he worked with, as well as the fact that the mill was New Zealand-owned and supporting 13 local farmers.
“I really love the story of this place. We were the little guy .. now we are the second-biggest in the whole country.”
He was determined to keep it that way.
Mr Muir was flown to Tauranga to attend the association’s annual meeting and be presented with the scholarship.
Operations manager Ian Ellis said the scholarship would ensure Mr Muir could teach the new and younger people who came through the mill, which was particularly important as many of their workers were reaching retirement age.
Mr Ellis was also proud of another staff member, Dirk Venter, who was celebrating being the only person in the country to pass two of his NABIM Milling exams with distinction.
He was also one of only seven people worldwide to do so.