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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
I believe the best way to create good living conditions for any animal, whether it’s a captive animal living in a zoo, a farm animal or a pet, is to base animal welfare programmes on the core emotion systems in the brain. My theory is that the environment animals live in should activate their positive emotions as much as possible, and not activate their negative emotions any more than necessary. If we get the animal’s emotions rights, we will have fewer problem behaviours. All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain.
It might not be the whole solution, but a million hectares of trees would make a big difference – not to mention the added benefits for erosion and water quality.
Alex Atala: He who lives, shall see. Quem viver, verá
Milad Alexandre Mack Atala was born in Brazil in 1968 and during his late teens and twenties lived the life of a punk – a redheaded, fair-skinned kid, patched in tattoos, deeply immersed in music, with an appetite for drugs. That was his truth back then – the way of the anarchist – but he now describes that point of view as being too reductive: “I have no doubt that the way punks look at the world is quite singular. I’m
We’re letting all these things die which actually have flavor, character, and stories. I believe that when people stop growing food, they stop telling stories. Each seed has a story, the story of its origin – its agricultural history and its uses in the field – but also at the table – its flavor and the way it tastes differently than most things that are available today. Sometimes they tell the story of the family.
A study of our organic pasture: yarrow
Common name: Yarrow. Scientific name: Achillea millefolium. Why we use it: Yarrow has laciniate leaves and is found is pastures throughout New Zealand and is extremely hardy. The root system makes it capable of surviving thirsty, hot months and helps to combat soil erosion. Introduced by the settlers, it grows like a dense mat, so is important to keep tabs on so it doesn’t dominate the other plants in the pasture. The mineral content is higher than that of clover and rye
A study of our organic pasture: chicory
Common name: Chicory. Scientific name: Cichorium intybus. Why we use it: It performs well in Summer and Autumn, as it has a deep tap root that allows it to access water where other plants can’t. When other plants are feeling the effects of reduced levels of rain, Chicory can dig deep. It’s classified has having high protein and digestibility for foraging animals and has contains high levels of the minerals: Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Copper. Calcium is essential for optimum milk production and growth
Shadows beneath the mountain: Jack and Ted in the 1920’s
The Osborne brothers were born in Canterbury in the late nineteenth century. Ted was the older of the two, and in their twenties they made their way to the North Island, where Jack worked at an old creamery in East Tamaki (pictured above). This perhaps is the site of the Tip Top factory today. Like many men their age, they were drafted into the First World War. Ted went to Egypt and Gallipoli, Jack to the Somme – one of
A study of our organic pasture: lucerne
Common name: Lucerne. Scientific name: Medicago sativa. Why we use it: Lucerne is a legume that grows all year around and is a perennial, which means it lives for more than two years. Its deep, tap roots allow it to source water when other plants can’t. Great for both grazing straight from the pasture, it’s also used for making hay to store and feed over the winter months. It’s been found to increase soil nitrogen, which is a main element needed for strong
A study of our organic pasture: plantain
Common name: Plantain. Scientific name: Plantago lanceolata. Why we use it: It’s fast establishing from seed, with a coarse root system and grows for the entire year. It’s not as drought tolerant as chicory, but responds well to moisture, whether that’s rain or effluent. The minerals copper, zinc, selenium and cobalt are present in high concentrations, which all benefit the cows in different ways. Copper has been proven to help with bone development, the immune and nervous systems, as well as pigmentation.
I feel that good food should be a right and not a privilege, and it needs to be without pesticides and herbicides. And everybody deserves this food. And that’s not elitist.
Shelby Dukes on observation, organics and the disappearing family farm
Delaware’s official state bug is the ladybug. The state bird is the blue hen chicken, and the state tree the American holly. Its state seal has a sheaf of wheat, an ear of corn, and an ox proudly front-and-centre. The second-smallest state (by area) and the first to sign the United States Constitution, it’s also where Shelby Dukes was born into a farming family a few, short decades back. Arable, or cropping, it was. Corn, soybeans, lima beans and some
Music to milk to
Rather than favour the flavour of the day, our cows have grown up on rock music: Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, The White Stripes. While this has been great for cultivating their musical taste, it dawned on us it probably hasn’t been great for cultivating their calmness, or their milk production. We built an automated milking shed (AMS) last year to create a milking environment that was more comfortable for the cows. They come in when they feel
We make money because we do good. We find a way to integrate social responsibility into how we do business on a day-to-day basis. Which, makes it a key driver of future growth and profitability.