On the next episode, screening 26 March 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
The Family Farm
Greg and Rachel Hart produce free range meat and eggs on Mangarara Station in Hawkes Bay. The Family Farm may look like a regular sheep and beef operation but Greg and Rachel are quietly exploring new and even radical approaches to farming, business and community.
Guided by a philosophy known as regenerative agriculture, they put every spare cent into restoring their paradise, planting vast areas in natives, retiring waterways and reducing their reliance on cultivation, fertiliser and fossil fuels.
Greg is adamant, “We need to do better than sustainable. We need to regenerate the planet and it has to start with the soil.”
One of the ways they do this is by stocking intensively on long pasture and shifting stock daily, sequestering carbon into the soil.
It’s very hands-on but Greg insists it’s no harder than conventional farming. “If anything it’s easier because there’s so much variety!”
His day begins in the milking shed. The Family Farm is not a dairy operation – there are only 20 or so dairy cows – but they provide milk for the pigs and calves, hand-delivered by Greg every morning.
The dairy shed also supplies milk - and therefore cheese, butter and yoghurt - for Greg and Rachel and their three children, and for a second couple who live on Mangarara Station, work part-time for the Harts and produce swap their vegetables and honey for Greg and Rachel’s eggs, milk and meat.
This lovingly-raised Mangarara meat is butchered off-farm and sold by mail-order to a client base Rachel thinks of not as ‘customers’ but ‘supporters’ or even ‘partners’.
“By buying our meat they are investing in our regenerative agriculture efforts.”
The large tree-planting projects at Mangarara have attracted substantial corporate sponsorship from the likes of the Air NZ Environment Trust, which, in turn, obliges the Harts to open their property to the public to show where their money has been spent.
But the Harts always had an open-gate policy anyway. Even before they had children of their own, Greg and Rachel started hosting an annual triathlon for kids on the farm. Now, thirteen years on, the Hart’s own three children are veteran competitors.
“It’s just a small country event but seeing people come to the farm and have fun is what we’re all about” says Greg.
Visitors are welcomed – to encourage people to reconnect with their food source. Rachel and Greg have even built a luxury eco-lodge to accommodate their many visitors, and on any given day Greg may have guests watching or even helping him milking, feeding pigs and gathering eggs. “We want people to feel like this property is their family farm.”
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