Rural round-up

September 7, 2017

The leap from farming to cheese:

The Berry family’s journey from farming to specialty cheese began in 1987.

Such a leap was triggered by a huge upheaval in our rural communities. In 1984 all farming subsidies were removed, product prices halved and interest rates ballooned to 23-24%.

When Rob Muldoon was voted out Roger Douglas and Labour inherited a broken economy. ‘Rogernomics’ and the ‘free economy’ were born, which crippled our rural communities resulting in many farmers leaving the land and numerous farmer suicides.

In our case, North Otago had the added challenge of crippling droughts. We had a pretty large farming operation, which included a high country run and two down land properties. I decided the former could stay as it was, while the down country farms would be used for cropping and stock trading. . . 

A very good move – Pam Tipa:

Any initiative that helps train health professionals ready and willing to work in rural communities is good, says Michelle Thompson, chief executive of Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ).

The Government announced last week a plan to establish a school of rural medicine within the next three years to train doctors for rural and regional areas.

Two proposals are now before the Government: one from the University of Waikato and the Waikato DHB, the other a joint proposal by the Otago and Auckland medical schools. . .

Rural-community-fights-for-cell-phone-and-internet-connection – Kate Taylor:

As the traveller turns off State Highway 2 at Oringi, south of Dannevirke, the cellphone coverage hovers around three or four bars. Further down the road they start to disappear and have gone completely 10 minutes later when the Manawatu River bridge is crossed and the road winds towards Kumeroa.

This isn’t unusual for thousands of rural roads around the country. Farmers all over New Zealand put up with landlines reminiscent of the 1980s and satellite broadband costing a small fortune. . .

Becoming Kiwi: A Filipino with a passion for farming – Deena Coster:

For Joseph Domingo, Taranaki has given him the chance to live his dream.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Domingo made the difficult decision to leave his homeland shortly after he completed his tertiary education in animal science.

It was a choice driven by economics and a desire for seek out new opportunities.  

Domingo said competition for jobs in the Philippines is fierce and a university education doesn’t guarantee work in a country with a population of 103 million people. Only about 60 per cent of tertiary educated people get work there, he said.

“The best opportunity for me and my family was to move overseas.” . . 

‘Justifiable milk price increase must be passed back to farmers’ – Sylvester Phelan:

Yesterday’s GDT (Global Dairy Trade) auction has again demonstrated the continuing strength of butterfat prices, with the butter price up 3.8% and AMF (Anhydrous Milk Fat) up 3.6%, according to the IFA’s (Irish Farmers’ Association’s) National Dairy Committee Chairman, Sean O’Leary.

Taken together with continued strong European market return trends, it is clear that a price increase on August milk of at least 1c/L is fully justified, the chairman stated. . . 

Nursery’s charitable trust thrilled with Ballance Farm Environment Awards involvement

Just to be a finalist was an absolute thrill for Gary and Adrienne Dalton and the Te Whangai Trust in this year’s Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Winning the region’s Hill Laboratories Harvest Award made it even sweeter, Gary says. . .

Why my husband is head of the family – Louise Giltrap:

After being called sexist, Louise Giltrap feels the need to explain what she really feels about her husband’s place in the family.

 My last column about how women cope with stress struck a chord with a lot of people. Rural women out on the farm everyday especially identified with it.

Men read it and said it was like having a penny drop for them. Their wives had been telling them, but all of a sudden it made sense.

The bit some people got up in my grille about was what I said to the men out there, “You are the heads of our families.”

That’s just my opinion. Even though I’m headstrong and opinionated and have my roles within our agribusiness, Geoff is the head of our family. . . 


Bob Berry MNZM

June 6, 2016

Whitestone Cheese founder Bob Berry has been awarded an MNZM for services to the industry.

Mr Berry, who is semi-retired and lives at Lakes Hayes, said he was delighted to accept the award on behalf of all those who had contributed to the boutique cheese-making enterprise.

The company employs 60 people and Whitestone is a recognised brand in the United States, Australia and the Pacific.

Mr Berry was born on D-Day 1944, was brought up in Karitane, attended Waitaki Boys’ High School and on leaving school worked for stock and station agency Dalgety and Co.

He began farming a hill country property near Waikouaiti in 1972 and bought another farm at Maheno in 1982.

Mr Berry and his wife, Sue, decided to diversify into cheesemaking in 1987 during the rural downturn.

“I was sick of being a price-taker rather than a price-maker,” Mr Berry said.

“A lot of farmers exited farming during the ’80s and started all sorts of enterprises.”

Mr and Mrs Berry set up their cheese-making factory in a garage with the help of Evansdale Cheese founder Colin Dennison, and slowly built up their knowledge base by employing cheesemakers from Europe and elsewhere in New Zealand.

“All have contributed something to our recipes and the regional styles we have developed.”

The company was now putting out more cheese per day than it did during its entire first year, processing about 55,000 litres of milk a week.

Mr Berry said his favourite cheese was the company’s “flagship” Windsor blue.

He was a founding member of the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, served as chairman for five years and is a life member.

He continues to sponsor many community initiatives through the company, including contributions to and sponsorship of the Oamaru Opera House and the Alps to Ocean cycle trail.

Whitestone Cheese is now run by his son, Simon.

This is  well deserved recognition for service to the industry, business in general and the community.

Other southern rural people honoured include:

Stewart Barrnett, who received an ONZM for services to agriculture and business.

Mr Barnett (73), who spent 34 years with the former PPCS, now Silver Fern Farms, 22 of them as chief executive, said he was extraordinarily lucky to work for a farmers co-operative during his career as it gave him the chance to meet many people in the industry.

He also played a role on New Zealand producer boards, particularly the meat and deer industry boards.

“The meat industry involved me fully; it was constantly evolving.” . . .

Bev  Clark received an MNZM for services to health.

A champion of health services in southern rural towns, Bev Clark, of Wanaka, has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Born in Winton in 1942, and now retired from her various health advocacy roles, Mrs Clark has a long history of fighting to retain and improve health services.

While farming at Hokonui, in Southland, with husband the late Boyd Clark, Mrs Clark became involved in the successful battle to retain, and improve, maternity services in Winton, spending eight years as chairwoman of the Central Southland Health Trust and the Winton Birthing Unit.

Mrs Clark said last week, at one point her husband joked she should move her bed to the unit because of the amount of time she was spending there.

In the late 1990s, Mrs Clark became involved in an even bigger battle, to retain and upgrade Clyde’s very rundown Dunstan Hospital.

As chairwoman of the board of Central Otago Health Services Ltd, she was one of those who took on Labour health minister Annette King.

In 2003, the board threatened to resign over the state of the hospital, and Mrs Clark recalled being accused of “blackmailing” the government and being described by Ms King as “petulant”.

But a public meeting of 1000 people backed the board and the government agreed to put in $7.6million, with the community adding about $3million more.

Mrs Clark has served as a director on the Southern Regional Health Authority and the Health Funding Authority, has chaired the Consumer Liaison Committee for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and was a council member of their division of Rural Hospital Medicine.

She also spent six years on the New Zealand Psychologists Board.

Mrs Clark is a marriage and funeral celebrant in Wanaka and is a founding executive member, treasurer and life member of the Celebrants Association in New Zealand. . . 

She has more than earned recognition for the years of work fighting for and helping to maintain and run rural health services.

Stuart Heal, a former CEO of the rural co-operative CRT received an MNZM for services to cricket andd the community.

Dr Garry Nixon regards his MNZM as recognition of the importance of rural hospital medicine as a specialty.

 . . .Dr Nixon (55), of Alexandra, has been a medical officer and rural hospital doctor at Dunstan Hospital since 1992 and was instrumental in establishing rural hospital medicine as a specialty.

He has served as a researcher, teacher and lecturer in rural health at the University of Otago and has introduced several specialty training modules to benefit rural patients.

One of those modules – the certificate of clinician-performed ultrasound programme – has been recognised as a world-class programme of special benefit in remote rural areas.

Dr Nixon was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners in 2010.

In 2014, he was appointed chairman of the university’s health science division’s rural working party and, in 2015, he was made the director of the postgraduate rural medical programmes at the Dunedin School of Medicine.

His aim is to promote the vocation of rural hospital medicine to ensure the career is sustainable and attractive to doctors in the future.

“What gives me the most satisfaction is the opportunity to work with young doctors as they’ve been coming through – they’re a great group.”

There was still a lot of work to do in rural health in terms of bringing it into line with other specialties in medicine so it had the same status and supports, Dr Nixon said.

The full Honours List  includes:

DNZM

To be Dames Companion of the said Order:

The Honourable Ellen Dolour France, of Wellington. For services to the judiciary.

Ms Karen Margaret Sewell, QSO, of Wellington. For services to education.

KNZM

To be Knights Companion of the said Order:

Mr Robert George Mappin Fenwick, CNZM, KStJ, of Auckland. For services to conservation and business.

Mr Michael Friedlander, CNZM, of Auckland. For services to philanthropy.

Mr Christopher Robert Mace, CNZM, of Auckland. For services to science and education.

Mr Matiu Nohorua Te Rei, of Wellington. For services to Māori.

The Honourable Ronald Leslie Young, of Greytown. For services to the judiciary.

CNZM

To be Companions of the said Order:

Professor John Renata Broughton, ED, of Dunedin. For services to Māori health, theatre and the community.

Ms Janice Amelia Dawson, of Auckland. For services to governance.

Mr George Gerald Farrant, of Auckland. For services to heritage preservation.

Ms Myrlene Dawn Jones, OBE, JP, of Auckland. For services to netball and education.

Dr Dianne Christine McCarthy, ONZM, of Blenheim. For services to science, business and women.

Dr Thomas Ernest Miller, of Auckland. For services to medical research.

Ms Jennifer Mary Prince, of Wellington. For services to children and children’s health.

Professor William Te Rangiua Temara, of Hamilton. For services to Māori and education.

Other awards for agribusiness and rural people include:

ONZM

To be Officers of the said Order:

Mr Mark Joseph Greenwood, of Te Puke. For services to biosecurity.

Mr Christopher Morton Kelly, of Wellington. For services to agriculture.

Mr Samuel Kevin Prime, MBE, of Kawakawa. For services to conservation and Māori.

MNZM

To be Members of the said Order:

Dr Maurice Rewi Alley, of Palmerston North. For services to conservation and education.

Mr Gerald Brackenbury, of Lower Hutt. For services to conservation.

Dr Andrew Ian Dennis, of Nelson. For services to conservation.

Mr Andrew Graeme Lowe, of Havelock North. For services to conservation.

Mr Mervyn Douglas Thomas Utting, of Gisborne. For services to sheep dog trials.

QSM

Mr Ruari Ingram Foley, of Waimate. For services to the community.

Mr Gary William Fowler, JP, of Hikuai. For services to the community and agriculture.

Mrs Jennifer Anne Gallagher, JP, of Darfield. For services to the community.

Mr Jacob Cornelis van Dorsser, of Rotorua. For services to the environment.

 


Rural round-up

November 11, 2014

Cheese-making success recognised – Dene Mackenzie:

Whitestone Cheese, of North Otago, was founded in 1987 as a diversification during the 1980s rural downturn and a series of crippling droughts.

Last night, the company won the Westpac-Otago Chamber of Commerce Supreme Business Awards at the 2014 OBiz awards ceremony held in Dunedin.

About 330 people attended the function which is held every two years.

Notes provided to the Otago Daily Times said Whitestone founder Bob Berry’s experience in livestock trading was quickly applied to cheese trading. . .

Alliance pool payment first in 3 years – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group farmer shareholders will receive a pool payment for the first time in three years after a better financial result.

The company has announced an operating profit, before a $7 million pool payment distribution, of $17.6 million for the year to September, up from $8.4 million last year.

Turnover increased from $1.38 billion to $1.46 billion, while after-tax profit increased from $5.6 million to $6.2 million. . .

Merino genetics focus breeds success – Sally Rae:

When Gordon Lucas’ parents bought Nine Mile Station, the local land agent commented that it ”wouldn’t be a bad stepping stone for the lad”.

”Here I am at the end of my career and I’m still on the stepping stone,” Mr Lucas quipped.

He was outlining the story of Nine Mile Pastoral Ltd to those attending the New Zealand Grassland Association conference, which was based in Alexandra last week.

As part of several field trips, including Ida Valley Station and Hills Creek Station, those attending visited Willowbank, near Tarras, an intensive irrigated finishing property run in conjunction with Nine Mile. . .

Mobile Milking System, Bureaucrats & Regulations – Milking on the Moove:

When I decided to actually build the mobile cowshed & process my own milk, I knew that the regulatory requirements would be the hardest part.

New Zealand trades on our food safety reputation. We need to protect that reputation. I’m aware that even small scale producers have the potential to put our whole reputation at risk too.

With this in mind, I delved into all the regulations that a mobile cowshed would have to meet. 

The regulations for the farm dairy side of things are in a document named NZCP1.

People wanting to process milk will also need to know all the requirements of DCP1, DCP2, DCP3 & DCP4.  . .

MP welcomes trail initiative;

Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay congratulates the Gibbston community, landowners, and the Queenstown Trails Trust for delivering the $370,000 Gibbston River Trail which will join the Queenstown Trail as a part of the NZ Cycle Trail Great Rides network.

The Gibbston River Trail Upgrade was reopened today (8 November). Mr Barclay was presenting certificates to the landowners who provided easements to make the trail possible. . .

Feed Grain market tightens up:

Grain growers will be heading into the next harvest with silos completely empty, and an emerging potential for shortages. This is according to a recent study published by the Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI).

David Clark, Federated Farmers Grain and Seed vice-chairperson, says this time two years ago there was a glut of wheat and barley available to end-users.
“That has now been obliterated” he says.

“Twenty-four months ago the market had a big surplus of carry-over stock heading into the end of the year.

“Last year we made a big dent in that surplus, but these latest figures show that it has now disappeared. . .

Building the next generation of Federated Farmers – Casey Huffstutler:

When it comes down to it, people are the key to our primary industry success and even survival. They are our most precious resource.

Our value recognised in the multiple organisations set up to promote and support the industry and its people.  From education, to industry good, to insurance, to lobby organisations; New Zealanders are building a strong agri-community.  NZ Young Farmers and Federated Farmers sit at the core of this; made up of the very farmers this community exists for.

The Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, of which I have been a NZ Young Farmers Field Officer for nearing on four years, have a great working relationship with Federated Farmers Waikato.  It is important to have cohesion between our young farmers and our farming leaders, to ensure we are supporting the next generation into the spotlight. . .

 Open Day aims to give public a peak at primary sector:

 Connecting city folk with ‘what goes on behind the gate’ is just one of the objectives for the upcoming Farm Open Day to be held at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF).

Following on from the success of last year’s inaugural event, the farm will once again open its gates to the public to showcase the operations of a commercial dairy farm and provide perspective on the broader scientific, commercial and logistical aspects of sustainable food production.

The event is organised by the South Island Dairying Development Centre (SIDDC) and Fonterra, and will include nine outdoor educational demonstrations and displays which take people on the journey of ‘turning sunshine into food’. A central marquee will offer information to the public, along with samples of a range of milk-based products, such as cheeses, yoghurt, milk drinks and ice creams. . .

Building NZ’s reputation as a leader in food safety in China:

 New Zealand Government owned AsureQuality and PwC’s New Zealand and China firms are cooperating with COFCO, China’s largest agricultural and food products supplier, to continually improve China’s food safety and quality. All four parties signed a cooperation agreement to that effect on the side-lines of the 2014 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing, China today.

Drawing on leading New Zealand and international food and agricultural models, the agreement formalises areas where AsureQuality and PwC will support COFCO in embedding best practice in food safety and quality across the food and agriculture industries. . .

Results Announced for the 2014 Fonterra Elections:

Returning Officer Warwick Lampp, of electionz.com Ltd, has declared the final results of the 2014 elections for the Fonterra Board of Directors, Directors’ Remuneration Committee and Shareholders’ Council.

Shareholders voted to re-elect incumbent Directors John Monaghan and David MacLeod. They will be joined by new Director Leonie Guiney.

Leonie Guiney lives and farms near Fairlie where she is Director of four dairy farming companies. Leonie has previous experience as a Consulting Officer, Dairy Production Lecturer and has studied overseas co-operatives in the Netherlands and Ireland. Leonie was the 2014 winner of the low-input Dairy Business of the Year. . .

 


Manufactured crisis torpedoed

August 16, 2013

The manufacturing crisis the opposition has been trying to manufacture has been torpedoed by facts:

New Zealand manufacturing activity rose to its highest level on record for a July month, reflecting a broad expansion.

The BNZ-BusinessNZ performance of manufacturing index rose 4.3 points to 59.5 in July from June, the highest result for a July month since the survey began in 2002 and the third highest monthly result on record. A reading above 50 indicates the sector expanded, while a fall below 50 shows contraction.

New Zealand manufacturing is underpinned by domestic demand from the construction sector on the back of the rebuilding of earthquake damaged Christchurch and demand for housing in Auckland, the nation’s biggest city. Domestic demand is outweighing a weakness in our biggest export market of Australia, where an economic slowdown and the higher New Zealand dollar are crimping demand.

“Production and new orders continue to lead the charge, with signs that employment is starting to join in,” Doug Steel, an economist at Bank of New Zealand, said in a statement. “The strength is broad-based with expansion indicated by all major sub-indices across industries, regions and firm size.” . . .

Bad news for the opposition is good news for employment and the economy.

The ODT profiles a company which counters the gloom merchants:

Despite constant talk of recession and a so-called ”manufacturing crisis” people in rural Otago are still better placed now than at any time since the introduction of Rogernomics in the 1980s to set up in business, an Oamaru cheese manufacturer says.

Whitestone Cheese was set up in a defunct Oamaru garage at the height of government deregulation and a severe rural economic downturn in 1987.

The company, now exports to eight countries and employs about 40 full-time and 20 part-time staff at its Oamaru factory and up and down the country.

Managing director Bob Berry said today’s rural economy was still a ”much more positive environment” for business than it was 30 years ago.

”In our rural communities it was very difficult in the ’80s, but out of adversity often come opportunities. . . .

Whitestone Cheese began in adversity and has succeeded.

It is proof that opportunities are there for those with the courage to seize them, and that some of those opportunities are in manufacturing.


Lifetime achievement award for Bob Berry

February 29, 2012

The New Zealand Specialist Cheese Association has presented Whitestone Cheese founder Bob Berry was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the country’s speciality cheese industry.

Bob started his working life as a stock agent before taking over his own farm. He and his wife Sue started Whitestone Cheese in 1987 in an attempt to overcome the ag-sag.

We were privileged to be at the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations and listened in admiration to the story of how the company started and grew. Whitestone now supplies delicious cheeses to outlets throughout New Zealand and has a growing export market.

The company has been a consistent winner in cheese awards since the early days and in last night’s Cuisine Champions of Cheese awards notched up another two wins – the Vintage Blue won the Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese Award and the Whitestone Range won the Caspack Champion Cheese Packaging Award.

The Oamaru Mail reports:

The company’s flagship cheese, Windsor Blue, has won more awards than any other cheese in New Zealand. Whitestone Cheeses have also been included in gift packs at the Oscars after-parties in the US.

Whitestone Cheese attributes its success to the use of locally sourced ingredients, including rich North Otago milk and traditional cheesemaking techniques.

Earlier this month son and general manager Simon Berry told the Oamaru Mail his father was often still on the road promoting the brand.

“Bob will never retire. He’s a bit like an old farmer; always tapping away at his fences,” he said.

He also acknowledged how Whitestone Cheese had become a proud North Otago institution, creating plenty of regional pride among his workers and the wider community.

“There is a bit of a culture of pride. We’re up there with the world’s best and we’re just from little Oamaru.”

The pride is justified, the cheese is delicious and most of it is named after North Otago localities or geographical features.

You can find out more about the company and order cheese online here.

If you watch the TV ad on the front page, you’ll  hear Bob and get an idea of his passion for his cheese.

The full list of 2012 Cuisine Cheese champions is here.


Blue cheese blues

March 29, 2009

Fonterra’s has made a blue  and from all acounts it – Kapiti Kikorangi – is a very nice blue. But it’s not as the company claims the blue which has won the most cheese awards.

Fonterra has based its claim on based on results from the Cuisine Champions of Cheese Awards, started in 2004 by the NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association but Whitestone Cheese isn’t swallowing that because:

Bob Berry, Whitestone Cheese founder, says Fonterra has a short memory. While the awards are only a few years old, a national competition has been in place since 1994.

“I think it’s quite simple. What they’re saying is let’s forget the first half and start again. But good things take time and good cheeses have long memories.”

My votes with Whitestone and not just for its Windsor Blue  but also for Moeraki Bay Blue  and Highland Blue.

They are delicious on their own, with oat crackers or bread and promote the humble asapragus roll to a gourment delight.

While it’s best with fresh asparagus , when that’s not available you can use tinned:

Cut the crusts of thin sliced wholemeal bread, top with one or two asparagus spears and a generous amount of grated blue cheese.

Roll, place on oven tray and cook until bread is toasted; or cook them in a toasted-sandwich maker and call them asparagus flats 🙂


Desperately seeking sheep’s milk

September 4, 2008

Whitestone Cheese has lost its supply of sheep’s milk and its delicious Mt Dasher and Stoneyhill fetas are now endangered.

Whitestone managing director Bob Berry said the company could process up to 100,000 litres of sheep’s milk a season.

Sheep produce 1.5 to 2 litres of milk a day so that would require a flock of 150 to 200 sheep.

Whitestone has found a supply of goats’ milk though, and will be launching goats’ milk cheeses soon – a couple of semi softs and a pyramid.

I have no doubt they will be up to the company’s usual high standards but that won’t solve the problem of no sheep’s milk feta which is so delicious on pizzas and in salads.

Whitestone was a product of the 1980s’ ag-sag. You can read how it started here and can view an advertisement which captures Bob’s passion for his produce and North Otago here.  If you watch very carefully and don’t blink at the wrong time you’ll see our cows.

The cheeses are named after North Otago places, the photos at the top of each page on the website were used in the company calendar a couple of years ago and most were taken by John Lamb.


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