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It’s not a choice between our environment and our economy; it’s a choice between prosperity and decline.
Bees over ‘beefies’
In late August of 2016, Richard and I bought some bees. At the beginning of the month I had gone on a cyclonic trip through the ins and outs of working with a hive. Called The Practical Beekeeping Course, it was a two-day immersive education in working a hive. When I got home each day around 8 pm, Richard and I would go over the notes, read some more and Google anything we had contradictory information on. Which, incidentally was
Manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata, haere whakamua. Care for the land, care for the people, go forward.
Do robots dream of electric cows?
Three years ago this week, on 4 March 2015, our oldest cow walked into stall number one to be milked by a robot. Five days before, she had also brazenly led the charge into the new shed with some fledglings behind her. This ‘dry run’ was to make the cows familiar with their new space by making it smell like them. For 95 years our family milked cows manually. Milking time would vary, depending on the number of cows. In
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
Salt licks and seaweed and blackstrap molasses
Every day of the year our cows dine on a continuous buffet of organic salad. When the Waikato has had just the right amounts of rain and sunlight, these leaves are silky, dark green and sturdy. Over many years, Mum and Dad have developed an organic polyculture pasture that’s suited to our land. It’s constantly changing and is mainly made up of chicory, grasses, white and red clover, yarrow, lucerne and plantain. This diverse pasture benefits cow health and milk production, while also
I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.
The Minister of Conservation on choosing mosaic over monoculture
For 21 years, World Wetlands Day has been celebrated on 2 February. It was born out of the 1971 adoption of the Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, which is a global treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. In her maiden speech to Parliament in February of 2012, Green MP Eugenie Sage opened with an acknowledgment of ‘the rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and aquifers throughout Aotearoa for all the life they sustain. Without clean and
Love Song for a Vampire
Richard loves to cook. Every Sunday night (even if we’ve got back to Auckland from the farm an hour before midnight) he’s plundering the freezer, thumbing through recipe books and notes, deciding what to cook for the week. Cooking is an experiment, something to relentlessly improve on, to satisfy creative itches and his greedy, daily diner. My workmates like to gently taunt me with my ‘leftovers lunchbox’ every day, as it’s always much better than their ho-hum sandwiches or packet
let gardens grow, where beelines end,
sighing in roses, saffron blooms, buddleia;
where bees pray on their knees, sing, praise
in pear trees, plum trees; bees
are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.
On a dry day in spring
During Conservation Week in October, Horahora School teachers, children and parents came back to the farm for a morning to lend a helping hand with our weir planting. Armed with spades and gumboots, they learned about why we created two large pools of water on the farm and how the digger created the new area. Cabbage tree, kowhai, kahikatea and grasses were among the plants that were gingerly placed in the ground. The kids split up into smaller groups of two to three, and used
Cooking and gardening involve so many disciplines: math, chemistry, reading, history.
How a buried stream became a well-formed sieve
The southern catchment spans around a third of our farm’s total area and discharges into an extensive gully wetland, eventually flowing into the Whangaipeteki Stream. The water then goes on a 2.6 km serpentine journey to the Waikato River. As on many farms in New Zealand, for a few decades the water had been channelled into a drain system, to make the most of pastureland and to reduce ‘bogging’, or ‘pugging’ by stock. However, the early weeks of the New
Learning about issues such as sustainability and locavorism are things that you need to have as part of you as a chef, because it will make you cook more delicious food.
The question is wai
Published in Cuisine Magazine (issue 183) in July, 2017. We were lucky to be featured in Aaron McLean’s strong piece intensified farming, vs exploring alternatives in New Zealand. It’s a great read and part of a much larger debate that’s starting to bubble up to the surface. We’re thankful to Cuisine for backing these more thought-provoking takes on our local food system. If you don’t have razor-sharp eyesight, press the zoom on your browser window to read. Or, grab yourself
The greatest danger to our future is apathy.
The Good Farmer: in defence of (non-industrial) dairying
Published in The Spinoff on April 24, 2017. Earlier this month, the current affairs show Sunday aired a segment called The Price of Milk. It outraged a lot of people, especially in the farming community, and for days after the show’s Facebook page was swarming. If you didn’t catch it, a lot of the shock was around the treatment of animals and the environment – building on the last few years of negative sentiment. It felt like a jolt. My family
Let’s move beyond a primary-sector, commodity-based economy by experimenting with niche high-value opportunities to enhance our economic diversity.
A study of our organic pasture: grasses
Common name: Perennial and annual grasses. Scientific name: Lolium perenne and Lolium multiflorum. Why we use them: Grasses are the ‘backbone’ of a pasture, the primary feed for cows. We have a medley of ‘historic’ and recently sown grasses on the farm. Typically, conventional farming sees pastures sprayed out with glyphosate, which means more of a monoculture is created. The old variety grasses that have been here since the farm was first broken in, are; Cocksfoot, Tall Fescue, Prairie, Grazing Brome, Phalaris, Yorkshire Fog, Brown Top
There’s always the pushback from the conventional model – organic can’t feed the world. And after thirty-four years (not three, or four) thirty-four years later, our data shows* yields are the same. Conventional right next to organic. When the soil is healthy, we have shown that yields are improved in the organic trials when there’s issues of drought. Up to 31% higher yields. So, there’s the beauty of growing with life.
*Started in 1981, The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture.
A study of our organic pasture: white and red clover
Common name: White and red clover. Scientific name: Trifolium repens and Trifolium pratense. Why we use it: Clover was introduced from Britain in the early 1800’s and bees were brought in 1839 to help with its pollination. White clover is a perennial forage legume and grows well on fertile soils. It has remarkable nitrogen-fixing abilities and helps the cows maintain milk production in late spring and early summer. Large and medium-leafed clovers are used in dairy pastures, as they’re more productive. Red
There are now millions of people who spend more time watching food being cooked on television than they spend actually cooking it themselves.
Rebuilding on the edge
The Maungatautari Ecological District has less than 10 per cent of its native vegetation remaining. Before our farm was cleared, it would have consisted of rimu–tawa forest on the flat and gently sloping areas, tōtara forest on gully slopes, and kahikatea forest throughout its gully basins. There’s no denying that, for about a century, marginal land has been marginalised in New Zealand. Back in July 2015, we started to rebuild the wetlands on our farm. With the help of an