Rural round-up


Chefs see food as much more than a commodity – Rebecca Ryan:

There’s a new movement gaining momentum in the New Zealand food industry. ConversatioNZ, aiming to ”inspire and empower” by creating a strong sense of pride and respect for the country’s natural, edible resources, is a not-for-profit movement created to share the story of New Zealand food and push culinary boundaries. North Otago reporter Rebecca Ryan talks to North Otago chefs and ConversatioNZ advisory board members Bevan Smith and Fleur Sullivan about it

Thirteen years ago, Fleur Sullivan saw waste and an opportunity for people to enjoy ”beautiful, fresh fish” straight off the boats in Moeraki.

Her restaurant Fleur’s Place, she says, was formed after she saw the byproduct – the fish brains, the heads, the livers – being thrown overboard from fishing boats and she knew she could use what was being thrown away. . . 

Te Brake hits the accelerator – Ali Tocker:

Changing the guard at Young Farmers has propelled meat industry accountant Jason Te Brake into the hot seat as chairman. He talked to Ali Tocker about his career so far and his aspirations for the Young Farmers movement while he heads the board.

Jason Te Brake is clever, confident and committed – three qualities that have earned him the role of chairman of New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF).

The 27-year-old has his sights set on a strong and secure future for the group.

Woman’s passion for health and safety leads to award:

A passion for improving health and safety on New Zealand farms, and in particular the health of those working in the industry, has contributed to a West Coast farmer being named the winner of the rural category of the Women of Influence Award.

Katie Milne, a dairy farmer from Rotomanu, is also a member of the Federated Farmers Board, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Board, TB-Free West Coast and numerous other groups, including being a volunteer firefighter.

Ms Milne works closely with the Rural Health Alliance and travels the country talking to farmers about health and safety.

She said some farmers were not coping due to low or dropping returns, but help was available. . . 

Water scheme expanding down valley – Hamish Maclean:

The North Otago Irrigation Company’s $57 million expansion down the Kakanui Valley is well under way.

Last month, McConnell Dowell Constructors crews began laying the main line – 1.2m-diameter reinforced fibreglass pipes – that will stretch towards Herbert.

The company almost tripled the size of the head pond on Ngapara-Georgetown Rd and upgraded pump stations over the winter.

The project was still on target for the September 2016 hook-up, company chairman Leigh Hamilton said. . . .

Significantly Improved Result Confirmed for Silver Fern Farms:

Silver Fern Farms has confirmed a positive 2015 financial result and further inroads made on debt reduction.

For the financial year ended September 2015, the company achieved Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) of $86.9m. This represented a 28 percent improvement on the $68.1m achieved in 2014. Net profit before tax for the year was $27.2m, up from $1.8m in 2014.

Chairman Rob Hewett said Silver Fern Farms’ shareholders will be pleased by the audited result. . . .

Potatoes ditch cadmium:

University of Canterbury researchers have developed potatoes that are resistant to cadmium, a toxic metal found in soil.

They say the finding could give growers here a new marketing edge.

Biotechnology lecturer Dr David Leung said their potatoes had a trait that could solve this problem and enhance New Zealand’s best potato varieties. . . 


No peeling


“Potatoes – baked or wedges?” she said.

“Not mashed?” he said.

“No,” she said.

“No?” he said?

“Not unless you want to peel them,” she said.

“You don’t?” he said.

“No, if God had meant me to peel potatoes He’d have called them oranges.” she said.

Not a berry cherry Christmas?


We stayed on a Yorkshire cropping farm in June.

They finished planting potatoes when we were there, 10 weeks after they started. Last year the crop had been planted in 17 days.

The season hasn’t got any better:

Frost and ice have added to an already tense situation for potato growers in Britain as many battled against the elements to finish lifting.

Indications from the Potato Council said crop production was at its lowest since 1976, with yields down 25% from last year.

But farmers said a 50% loss was more likely.

And farmers across all sectors have struggled with the cold weather, especially in Scotland where up to 15cm of snow fell in some areas as temperatures sank as low as -7degC. . . .

A cold wet spring and early summer here have affected stone fruit and berries.

Cherries are expected to be in short supply for Christmas and berries could be too.

We’ve been getting strawberries from the North Island and I had my first raspberries of the season from Butlers near Waimate but North Otago berries still aren’t ripe.

But the temperature got to the mid 20s yesterday and the forecast is for warmer weather which is what’s needed if there are to be local berries for Christmas dinner.

‘Tis the season . . .


. . . for new potatoes and you won’t find any finer than these.

Rare Earth new potatoes are grown a few kilometres south of Oamaru in tarry Totara  soils.

The link above will take you to a photo.

There are no new potatoes more delicious than those from around Oamaru and these are the best.

Best served simply – rub the dirt off the skins under running water, boil until tender in water with a sprig of mint.

Drain and serve.

I don’t even add butter, but those who do say they’re even better that way.

The not so humble potato


Bluff has oysters, Central Otago has stone fruit and North Otago has new potatoes.

Almost every area has a culinary speciality and one of ours is the not so humble late spring/early summer spud.

Laugh if you want to, but it you haven’t tasted North Otago new potatoes you’ve missed a treat.

For most of the year I could take or leave potatoes and if I wasn’t cooking for others I’d leave them off the menu more often that not.

But in late spring and early summer the locally grown Jersey Bennies ripen and they are delicious.

Rub the dirt off under running water,  put in a pot, cover with water, add mint, bring to the boil, turn the heat off and leave them on the element until they are tender.

Serve warm or cold.


This is why spud is another name for stupid


Could there be a more persausive argument against monoplies than this:

It is illegal to grow and sell a potato in Manitoba without getting permission. And it’s your potential competition who’d have to give you that permission. And if you complain, there’s no chance of getting permission.

Manitoba potato monopoly –  update   at Offestting Behaviour.

Too much water dilutes flavour?


Almost every area has produce of which it can be proud and one of North Otago’s culinary treasures is its new potatoes.

There is a happy mix of climate and soils which produces potatoes with a distinct and delicious taste.

So good are they that others have tried to trade on their reputation.

A couple of years ago a Kakanui grower saw boxes purporting to contain North Otago new potatoes while visiting Nelson in October. Knowing his own crop was still some weeks away from harvest he did a little detective work and discovered they weren’t North Otago potatoes but Nelson ones pretending to be their superior southern cousins.

When the first new potatoes of the season appear in the supermarket we resist them. Knowing they come from further north and never measure up to those grown in North Otago we wait to enjoy the local ones.

This season, however, I reluctantly admit that the Kakanui and Totara spuds didn’t live up to my expectations.

In light of the discussion by JC and Fran O’Sullivan four posts back  about too much water diluting the flavour of tomatoes, I wonder if that applies to potatoes too because the one major difference in the production of this season’s crop and those of previous years is irrigation.

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