From cockpit to farm


When COVID-19 ground his eight-year career as a pilot for Air New Zealand to a sudden halt, Henry Lambert decided to turn it into an opportunity for a complete change - to farming.

His story has been featured as a positive example of COVID career pivots on the six o’clock news, but the father-of-two is no stranger to dairy.  He grew up around his grandfather’s and uncles’ dairy farms and while he was flying planes, a career on the land had always been in the back of his mind. So, when the pandemic started to hit the aviation industry, it seemed like the perfect time to change gears.  

The dairy industry’s crying out for skilled workers, so Henry hoped by creating a CV and posting it on the Farm Source website, he’d get to give farming a crack.

Morgan, Jack, Henry & Harry

“I always thought I’d like to have a go one day, so when I was presented with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a good fit.”

Farm owner, Pete Bellamy, who spotted his CV, agreed it was a great fit and got in touch with an offer. Pete says, “because of the complications with COVID-19, it was as close to a blind date as it could be!”

Henry jumped at the chance, and within weeks of stepping out of the cockpit, he was stepping onto the land – relocating his family (wife Morgan, one-and-a-half-year-old son Harry, and four-month-old Jack) from Christchurch, to the Bellamy’s 1,000-cow farm near Te Poi, a village 15 minutes from Matamata.

Henry says changing careers has been a big challenge, but he’s enjoying life on-farm so far.

“It’s a steep learning curve for sure, as steep as you want to make it!

“There’s a lot to learn in the dairy industry, but I find that my skills have crossed over to a certain extent – I’m still constantly learning, so there’s nothing new in that regard.”

Pete admires Henry’s ability to adapt, saying, he’s not sure he’d have managed if he were in the same situation. 

“Henry’s a unique person in that he has a strong passion for aviation, and now he’s been able to follow his desire to give farming a go.

Henry before COVID-19 pushed pause on his flying days

He’s come with a mindset that this is what he wants to do, so has adapted well as a result of that.

Farm owner, Pete Bellamy

Henry is keen to pursue dairy farming for the immediate future and give his family a taste of the rural life he experienced when he was younger. 

“I’ve kind of said it would be five years before I can fly again, so I’m glad I could take this opportunity to upskill and make that call for ourselves. It was the perfect outcome for us.”

Rather than a career with his head up in the clouds, he’s landed and his (and his family’s) feet are now firmly on the ground.