Rural round-up

31/08/2021

Groundswell NZ have had a win, but they won’t stop their campaign– Rachael Kelly:

They’ve had a win, but the battle is far from over.

Groundswell NZ is pleased the Government has ‘’seen some sense’’ and decided to consult on some of the winter grazing rules the group campaigned against because they were unworkable for the nation’s farmers, co-founder Bryce McKenzie says.

But there were still rules that had been introduced that needed to be changed, such as those around significant natural areas and the ‘ute tax’ and Groundswell would continue to fight for change, he said.

“It’s taken 12 months of bickering and arguing and protests to get to this point, when they could have just read the 17,000 submissions that people made that told them they were wrong in the first place,’’ McKenzie said. . . 

Setting up for a strong future :

Every summer, carloads of people arrive at Lyndon and Jane Strang’s Five Forks farm in North Otago, trying to access a swimming hole near the bottom of their property.

Brush, gorse and blackberry had taken over the 50m-wide fenced berm between the 290ha farm and the Kakanui River and public access had all but been blocked.

‘‘We wanted to open it up and create a walkway along the entire length,’’ Mrs Strang said.

With the help of funding from the Otago Regional Council’s Eco Fund and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Jobs for Nature Fund, they have done just that. . . 

The future of farming could be up not out – Daniel Smith:

Unlike most people in the agricultural industry, Matt Keltie​ plants his crop upwards, not outwards.

Keltie’s​ business 26 Seasons​ first farmed microgreens in vertical farms in a former Wellington nightclub, but has recently expanded his operation to Auckland.

Vertical farming grows food on vertical surfaces, unlike traditional farming which produces on a single level such as in a field or a greenhouse.

But Keltie​ said it was not just about stacking plants on top of each other, but using technology to farm smarter. . .

Farming the seabed for weed – Jessie Chiang

The global seaweed industry is estimated to be worth more than $20 billion. New Zealand would like a slice of it.

“There are times I have to ban the s-word in the house.”

Lucas Evans lives and breathes seaweed. It took one introduction to it while he was on holiday in New Zealand, for the fascination to grow and blossom into a decade-long journey.

Originally from Australia, Evans went on to learn everything he could about growing and selling algae and crossed the ditch to settle in Coromandel. He’s now the co-founder and chief executive of his own seaweed company, Premium Seas. . . 

GO NZ: Cycling the Alps 2 Ocean trail with Adventure South – Elisabeth Easther:

The 356km of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, from Tekapo to Ōamaru, can be tackled no matter the season… just make sure you wear your waterproofs.

People asked if I was crazy when I told them I was headed to the South Island to ride the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. It was June and the weather was packing up all over the place. A fortnight prior to departure, Twizel, one of our waypoints, recorded a nippy -8C and just one week out, Ashburton was hit by some of the worst flooding on record. But cyclists are optimists by nature – you have to be to pedal in Auckland – so, when I finally set off, I resolved to accept the weather, whatever it was. Besides, on a fully supported tour with Adventure South NZ, if worst truly came to worst, I’d still be cosy and cared for.

Here’s why you don’t need to wait for good weather to tackle the ride yourself. . . 

Basil farm yet to reach its full potential – Marian Macdonald:

It’s already a very profitable business that produces more than 30,000 bunches of fresh basil a week but Honeysuckle Farm also has a commercial kitchen and a site ready for planting macadamias or berry crops.

The 91.55-hectare property is close to the coast at Avondale, midway between the Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton.

Woolworths is an important customer for Honeysuckle, which also sells basil puree as an ingredient.

Owner Jenny Grant says the business, which has its own commercial kitchen, has the potential to generate significant margins by value-adding the puree with products like pesto. . . 


Rural round-up

29/06/2021

At last – a paper that recognises climate and nutrition, with GWP* thrown in too – Andrew Hoggard:

Very recently a scientific paper was put out looking at the greenhouse gas and nutritional impacts of replacing meat in the average diet. The paper Lifetime Climate Impacts of Diet Transitions, with input from a number of very well respected scientists across a range of fields, found that the emissions reductions for a person who abstained from meat for a lifetime were very small – only 2 to 4%.  It also highlighted the risk of them missing out on key nutrients.  

It wasn’t so much the findings of this paper that I am most interested or excited by, rather the methodology that went into it. Two items really stick out: firstly, the fact that the paper includes nutrition understanding as well as climate science. Far too often when the subject of agricultural emissions come up, the full picture/understanding is omitted in favour of a narrow, siloed view.  

The problem with this approach is that it fails to recognise choices are never as simple as portrayed. For example, if we get rid of all animal agriculture and only have plant-based ag, what happens to all the crop waste? Think of the most common plants we grow for food: how much of that plant is consumed by humans? Quite often, less than half.  The rest we can feed to animals, which convert it into edible protein.  . . 

‘Shearing sheep was in my blood’ – David Hill:

An eight-month student exchange was enough to convince Diane Webster that New Zealand was the place to be.

The Dunsandel-based shearing contractor first visited New Zealand from the United Kingdom on a student exchange in the 1980s.

“I had always been in sheep farming. My dad was a sheep farmer and a stock truck driver and he used to shear sheep in the summertime, so shearing sheep was in my blood.”

She learned to shear while at agricultural college in the UK and when she first came to New Zealand, the host farmer encouraged her to do a shearing course so she could shear in this country, too. . . 

Hospo  life quite a ride – Ashley Smyth:

Hospo life seems to sit well with former Manuwatu farmers Craig and Blanche Sturgess.

It has been a “learning curve” for the couple, who bought the former Enfield School in 2016, converting the classrooms into a welcoming home, with bed and breakfast accommodation.

“We came from farming, which is not an easy lifestyle, so we’ve never been afraid of work, that’s for sure. And that’s just as well, because it is undoubtedly more work than I had thought it would be, but certainly not more work than we can handle,” Mr Sturgess said.

The business was perfectly placed on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. Visitors tended to stop off after the long cycle from Kurow, and before the last push to Oamaru the next day. . . 

Husky health, dogsled tours and frostbite checking central to vet student’s win – Lauren Hale:

Working 12+ hour shifts outdoors in bitter Northern winter temperatures of minus 45 degrees, would send most school leavers shuddering under their duvets, but not Agcarm’s most recent scholarship winner, Gemma Neve.  The Massey University student, originally from Australia’s iconic Bondi beach, not only embraced the challenge of working with huskies in Finland but thrived on it.  Realising “an obsession with the North and the Northern Lights”, she secured a winter job-stay at a husky farm in Lapland. “Within a week, run ragged by long days with no sunlight, feeding 250 dogs, running dog teams and constantly wiggling my toes to slow the frostbite down,” she says she knew she was staying.

The dogs and the wilderness captivated Gemma and her initial three-month stint at Hetta Huskies kennel farm turned into five years – braving every winter there. Initially employed as a dog handler, Gemma soon progressed to guiding dogsled tours and being responsible for clients and dogs in her sole care for up to five days. “I enjoyed introducing people from all over the world to the wilderness. It was a lot of responsibility. You would go from one hut to the next, with all the gear.” She spent some summers travelling, including two stints working for a New Zealand sled dog company in the Cardrona Valley.

Taking on the challenge of managing the health, welfare and nutrition of 250 sled dogs in her second year at the kennel, located in the far north of Finland – high in the Arctic Circle, Gemma started running and documenting health checks. Part of her role included checking nipples and testicles for frostbite, assessing the dogs’ nutritional needs and ensuring they were in optimal health. . .

Fonterra agrees sale of China JV farms:

Fonterra has agreed the sale of its two joint venture farms in China, with the sale expected to be completed on 30 June.

The farms in Shandong province will be sold to Singapore-based AustAsia Investment Holdings for USD 115.5 million.

Fonterra, which owns the farms with a joint venture partner, has a 51% stake in the business and will receive NZD 88 million* in total asset sale proceeds, which includes cash on completion.

The sale of the JV farms is unconditional and requires no further regulatory approvals. . .

“Maverick” farm advisors with smart ideas invited to apply for research funding:

Do you have an innovative idea that could create real change for Kiwi farmers? Rural professionals are encouraged to team up with farmers to apply for $75,000 funding to rapidly test smart ideas and share the results.

Rural professionals are invited to team up with farmers to apply for funding to test innovative ideas that could lead to significant improvements in farming systems.

The Rural Professionals Fund, established in 2020 by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, is now accepting applications for a second round of funding to support projects that could benefit farming communities.

“We need to encourage more ‘mavericks’ to test smart ideas that challenge our patterns of behaviour,” says Stephen Macaulay, chief executive of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Managers (NZIPIM), a key partner in the fund. . . 


Rural round-up

01/12/2020

Over 200 farmers challenge low slope maps – Neal Wallace:

More than 230 farmers have raised issues with the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) over the accuracy of its low-slope maps.

The online maps, part of the Essential Freshwater Policy, identify slopes of 10 degrees or less for the purposes of stock exclusion and permitted intensive winter grazing.

But the MfE maps have been roundly criticised for being inaccurate.

In response to a question from Farmers Weekly, a Ministry statement says around 200 people have filled out the online form and another 30 have sent information via email. . .

Beech trees herald huge eco venture – Guy Williams:

It is billed as New Zealand’s largest commercially funded native reforestation project. Two years ago, the Otago Daily Times unveiled Treespace Queenstown Ltd’s plans to reforest a high country farm with a wilding tree problem. Two months ago, the planting of beech trees on Mt Dewar Station began. Reporter Guy Williams talks to the man behind the project.

Drive the road along the foot of Coronet Peak between Arrowtown and Queenstown, look up at the mountainside above the skifield’s access road and you will see clusters of hundreds of plastic green sleeves.

Each one is protecting a precious mountain beech tree.

They are the first tangible sign of a long-term project to re-cloak the 1768ha former farm with 140,000 beech trees . . 

Alexandra woman elected to lead RWNZ – Sally Rae:

Challenging, exciting, daunting, motivating and humbling.

That is how Alexandra woman Gill Naylor described her feelings on recently being elected national president of Rural Women New Zealand, an organisation she said had to meet the needs of the “women of today”.

Mrs Naylor has been a member of the Cambrian St Bathans branch of RWNZ for more than 30 years.

Joining Women’s Division Federated Farmers (as it was known before a name change in the late 1990s) was a natural progression for the mother of three, having been involved with the likes of Plunket and play group. . . 

Up to 60 overseas shearers to be granted border exemptionsl – Maja Burry:

Up to 60 overseas shearers will be allowed to enter the country between January and March to help fill a gap in the local workforce.

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association (NZSCA) told the government in July that keeping shearers out because of Covid-19 travel restrictions could harm farmers’ incomes and cause animal welfare issues for unshorn sheep wilting in the summer heat.

There were further talks this month, and on Friday Immigration New Zealand said border exemptions had been granted for up to 60 shearers to enter the country between January and March.

Conditions include that they have to have at least two years’ experience and be contracted by an approved NZSCA employer. . . 

Fish and Game and Federated Farmers try to find some common ground – Eva Corlet:

Fish and Game and Federated Farmers have met up for a ‘goodwill’ meeting in an effort to work better together.

The two organisations have regularly clashed in the past over issues of dairy farming, freshwater and sustainability.

But, six members of the NZ Fish & Game Council met with their counterparts from Federated Farmers on 22 November, for a “cordial get-together”.

The groups discussed issues such as access, catchment groups, wetlands and connecting farmers with fishers and hunters. . . 

 Sailors Cutting to Benmore trail development:

The long awaited ‘missing link’ trail section from the Sailors Cutting camping ground through to Benmore Dam is due for opening on December 18th. Last week, the A2O project team collectively rode the trail to seek group consensus on safety and recommended duration.

Make no mistake – this section will be another real highlight of the A2O! At 16kms in length, its likely to take 3-4 hours of riding – when you are not racing and perhaps wanting to take time out to have a swim and relax a bit. The ride will feel remote – because it is! Cell phone coverage probably shouldn’t be relied on, so be self contained and ready. Most importantly, be prepared to relax & enjoy, and smell the roses if you can find any.

Starting the trail from the campground, the trail is wide and accommodating. For the first 4kms, it’s wide enough to ride two abreast as the trail climbs up to the low saddle above the Bach bay – and then the easy cycle down to the lakefront. Eventually the trail narrows for the 4-5km middle section and riding becomes single file, to accommodate two way traffic.

The many bays just invite a stop and a swim, and the 30m span of the bridge will excite many. From here, riders regain the wider 4WD track on the Benmore section, which gradually climbs and climbs to the saddle above Benmore dam and Otematata. . .


Rural round-up

15/05/2019

Tip Top sale half of debt target – Hugh Stringleman:

The sale of Tip Top to a joint-venture northern hemisphere company, Froneri, for $380 million has achieved almost half of Fonterra’s debt reduction target.

When its Beingmate shareholding is divested and a half share of DFE Pharma is sold, Fonterra should reach its $800m reduction target by July 31.

The Beingmate stake has a market value of about $280m and the DFE share about $200m, based on annual sales figures.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell has therefore made a good start on promised financial reforms of substantial debt reduction, cuts in capital and operational expenditure and 7%-plus return on capital invested by farmer-shareholders and unit holders. . . 

Gisborne woman takes out SI Sheep Dog trials event:

Gisborne’s Jo Waugh has won the zig zag hunt at the South Island sheep dog trial championships, the first time a woman has won the event in more than 100 years.

And not only did the 30-year-old and her huntaway dog, Guy, get on the podium, but two other women also joined her in the top seven, clocking up another achievement in the usually male-dominated event.

The South Island Sheep Dog trials were held in Hanmer Springs this week but farmers and shepherds have been competing since the sport first landed in New Zealand in the 1800s. . . 

MIE man changed priorities fast – Neal Wallace:

Richard Young was elected to the Silver Fern Farms board on a platform of industry restructuring and agitating for a merger with Alliance. Six years later the Otago farmer is the co-operative’s boss. He talks to Neal Wallace.

Richard Young vividly remembers the induction for new directors the evening before his first meeting as an elected member of the Silver Fern Farms board.

It was 2013 and the newly elected directors were taken through the co-operative’s accounts ahead of the annual meeting the next day.

It was not pretty. . . 

Tiny farm run on ethical principles– Sally Brooker:

An Alma family is proud to have set up the district’s smallest dairy farm.

Bethan and Bryan Moore have a herd of just 13 Ayrshire cows with calves on 6ha alongside State Highway 1. They will soon be selling milk in glass bottles.

The Moores bought the land about 18 months ago, after four years of sharemilking in Tasmania. Mrs Moore grew up near Cardiff, Wales and met Mr Moore, a farmer from the North Island, on her travels to New Zealand. . . 

Seeka cuts earnings forecast on smaller crop – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Kiwifruit grower and marketer Seeka has cut its full-year earnings guidance by $4 million due to reduced harvests in both New Zealand and Australia.

Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are likely to range from $32.5 million to $33.5 million in the 2019 calendar year, down from the $36.5-$37.5 million range the Te Puke-based company signalled a month ago.

Seeka, the biggest kiwifruit producer in New Zealand and Australia, said unseasonably hot, dry weather in both countries has reduced fruit size and crop volumes. . .

Meeting of Otago Drought Group – Sally Rae:

The work of the Otago Drought Group is a great example of farmers and their organisations collaborating to manage climate challenges locally, Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor says.

The group met again this week to update its discussions on the dry conditions in the Clutha district, how farmers were faring and what actions might be needed.

The group, which included Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead, representatives from Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, the Otago Rural Support Trust and the Ministry for Primary Industries, convened early in any adverse weather event. . . 

Flying Pig cafe going to market:

One of the Waitaki district’s most recognisable restaurants is on the market.

The Flying Pig Cafe, with its distinctive porcine pink exterior, has long been a landmark in Duntroon.

It has been closed since illness befell its owners in early 2017, and is now for sale.

An Auckland couple bought the cafe in 2007 after discovering it during a holiday driving around the South Island. Business began to soar after the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail opened in 2014. . . 

Hi-tech boosts growers’ bottom lines:

“Incredibly clever” technology that elevates cool rooms into a state-of-the-art controlled atmosphere chambers is helping Hawke’s Bay’s growers make the very best of their crops.

It is not just about chilling fruit, it is about controlling the air conditions inside the cooler to hold it in the best possible state until market conditions are optimal; which could be any time over the 12 months after the crop has been picked.

Next week, growers have the opportunity to learn more about that technology from the Europeans who make it. . . 


Another country pub closes

17/12/2016

Duntroon Tavern joins the growing list of country pubs which have closed or are going to close:

Duntroon is to lose its community hub as building regulations are forcing the closure of the village’s tavern tomorrow, the publicans say.
Duntroon is not alone. Other towns in North Otago also have pubs with uncertain futures. Hampden, Omarama, Kurow and Enfield all have pubs up for sale.

Duntroon publican Sandy Annan said the watering hole’s landlord was sent a letter by the Waitaki District Council’s lawyer stating that if the first floor of the Duntroon Tavern was still occupied by December 19, the council would start court proceedings. . . 

Duntroon is on the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycleway which brings thousands of people past its door.

There is already a shortage of accommodation, eating places, watering holes and loos on the route.

But that’s not enough to keep the pub open.

Buidling regulations, tougher drink-driving laws, a wider variety of alternative options, difficulty recruiting and retaining staff . . .

All of these and more have made running, and making a profit from, country pubs too difficult.

 


366 days of gratitude

19/01/2016

North Otago didn’t used to feature on many people’s tourist itineraries and Oamaru was once just another town to crawl through for people driving on State Highway 1.

But the growing popularity of the little blue penguins which nest around the harbour, the town’s stunning old (by New Zealand standards) buildings and its Victorian precinct and becoming the country’s Steampunk capital  started attracting more visitors.

Oamaru was dubbed New Zealand’s coolest town by Lonely Planet which has helped attract more visitors and help locals appreciate what we have on our doorstep.

Visitors’ appreciation isn’t confined to the town and exploration of the wider district has been boosted by the development of the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycleway which has been recognised as one of the world’s leading attractions:

North Otago’s Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has made it on to a list of the world’s best destinations in 2016 by travel publishers Frommer’s.

The trail runs from Aoraki-Mt Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru in North Otago.

Being named as one of 16 of the “Best Places to Go” in the world in 2016 is priceless marketing and “something that the whole region should be really proud of”, Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill says.

“It’ll be an amazing thing for the trail,” Mr Gaskill said.

“This is extremely important – it’s recognition that the trail itself, the infrastructure around it, the people who are operating on it and the people who are supplying it are operating to a standard that people feel comfortable to promote.”

Frommer’s describes the trail as ‘‘stunning and cheerfully hospitable” and starting the trail at Aoraki-Mt Cook “sets a perfect standard for awesome”.

“Your local hosts along the trail are happy to greet you and warmly organise food and lodging – after all, they pitched in to create this route for tourists – so come meet them under wide landscapes and huge skies… before the hordes find their way here,” the Frommer’s website said.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is the only New Zealand attraction to feature on the list and appears alongside destinations including Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Mongolia. . . 

The A2O isn’t finished yet but is already bringing lots of visitors and providing business opportunities for people servicing and selling to tourists.

Tourism is broadening the district’s economy, lessening its reliance of agriculture and it’s opening the eyes of locals to the many charms of our home patch.

Today I’m grateful for visitors who appreciate what we’ve got and help us appreciate it to.

P.S. The Frommer’s Best Places to Go list is here.

 


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