Rural round-up

Down on the Farm – Paul Gorman:

Rural life has always had its challenges, but environmental politics and the complexities of modern farming have brought new pressures. For some, the load becomes too much to carry.

When he was a kid, Sam Spencer-Bower used to help out his grandfather Marmaduke in his massive vegetable garden, just across from the farm cottage where he lived with his parents. He didn’t realise at the time that his grandad was something of a legend in Canterbury farming. His family had worked on this land ever since great-great-grandfather Marmaduke Dixon came from Claxby in Lincolnshire and in 1852 established a large farm in North Canterbury, near the gravelly north bank of the Waimakariri River.

In fact, Marmaduke Dixon was one of the first in New Zealand to irrigate his land, initiating flood irrigation from the Waimakariri before 1900. Sam’s grandfather, Marmaduke Spencer-Bower, farmed the land until he was about 95 and wrote a book about the farm and Marmaduke Dixon’s legacy. In other words, Sam Spencer-Bower — middle name Marmaduke — had a lot to live up to.

By the time his grandfather died at the age of 98, Spencer-Bower was already well on the road to taking over the fifth-generation family farm. He was studying for a degree in farm management at Lincoln University. That’s where he met his wife, Jo, who was herself from a sixth-generation farming family (her brother is former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw). At the time, Jo recalls, she liked the fact that Sam had a “sensitive side”, that he was “not a big showman”. . .

Flood fund criteria way off the mark :

Nearly four months on from the floods that devastated much of rural Canterbury, the Government has fallen short of the promises it made to local farmers, says National MP Nicola Grigg.

“Jacinda Ardern and Damien O’Connor flew into Ashburton with cameras rolling to announce a $4 million Canterbury Flood Recovery Fund – indicating that it was just a start, that they were still working to establish the full scale and cost of the damage – and that there would be more where that came from,” says Grigg who is MP for Selwyn.

She says the fund offers grants of up to 50% of eligible costs with a total limit of $250,000 and will contribute to uninsurable costs to enable productive land to return to a productive state as quickly as possible.

“Essentially, it can only be used for the clearing up of flood debris such as boulders, gravel, trees, and silt on productive land. Insurable costs, such as replacing fences, have not been targeted by the fund.” . .

Farmers weigh weather impact across islands – Neal Wallace & Colin Willscroft:

A wet spring is proving a major challenge for southern South Island farmers, causing sleepy sickness, forcing dairy farmers to milk once-a-day, feed out supplements or stand cows off paddocks.

While annual rainfall is about average, the pattern in which has fallen, with up to 85mm already falling this month, is causing sodden ground conditions, especially on the Southland coast

Otago Federated Farmers meat and wool section chair and Clinton farmer Logan Wallace says a dry autumn meant he went into winter with low pasture cover, which required his hoggets to be sent to grazing. He says much of South Otago is similarly short of feed.

He applied urea, which provided a brief respite before a recent cold snap reduced its effectiveness, and recorded more than 75mm of rain in the week to the middle of September, equivalent to that month’s average rainfall. . . 

Paddocks ablaze with colour as sales plummet for daffodils – Country Life:

Sweep into Clandon Daffodil’s driveway on the outskirts of Hamilton you’ll be treated to an unusually vibrant spectacle.

This year, because of Covid-19 restrictions tens of thousands of unpicked daffodils are dancing in the paddock, unable to be sent to Auckland’s flower market.

Clandon is one of New Zealand’s biggest daffodil growers and owner Ian Riddell says Auckland usually takes three quarters of its daffodils.

“We’re getting plenty of comments from people who come in and are saying ‘wow it’s amazing’…It certainly is a sight. It probably won’t happen again. . . 

Call for SI specific residency visa – Neal Wallace:

An immigration adviser is calling for a rethink on how long-term migrant workers are treated, saying up to 6000 in the South Island face an uncertain future.

Ashburton-based Maria Jimenez says these migrants are employed in healthcare, hospitals, construction and agriculture and have an expectation they could apply for residency after meeting work criteria.

Because of covid’s impact on the immigration office, the Government suspended Expressions of Interest (EOI) selections for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) last year, closing a pathway to residency for many migrants.

The Government is also resetting immigration policy in a move to reduce the reliance on imported workers. . . 

Public back gene-editing tech as climate worries rise :

The public want farmers to have access to new precision breeding techniques such as gene-editing to respond better to climate change, a new survey says.

It indicates rising concern about the environment following a summer of droughts and heat waves, including the hottest temperatures recorded in Europe since records began.

The YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults, carried out on behalf of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, shows public enthusiasm for new approaches to farming in light of these extremes.

The majority of those surveyed (81%) agreed that farmers should be able to benefit from innovations that could help them play their role in meeting the UK goal of reaching net-zero by 2050. . . 

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