Episode 3 - A Tale of Two Farms
Ron and Sally Peter are a farming couple who have the best of both worlds.
They divide their week between two spectacular properties in Marlborough – one coastal, the other hill country.
“It’s definitely a contrast,” Sally says. “That’s what’s special about it and that’s what gives us a thrill.”
Rob Peter’s family has farmed at Cape Campbell, in the shadow of its renowned lighthouse, since his father bought the 1300 hectare block in 1973.
The area is defined by dry summers and strong winds.
“We’re the most drought-prone area in New Zealand,” Rob says. “We’ve got the records for the lowest rainfall in a three-month and six-month period. You don’t want too many records like that!”
Because of the dry summers, they truck their lambs off the property by early November because there’s not enough grass to feed them. Only the ewes stay on the farm year-round.
“It just dries off and we’ll be left with a few brown sticks and a bit of dust.” Rob says. “But the ewes do all right as long as they’ve got a bit of weight on – they don’t require a lot of feed during the summer.”
At one stage they were so badly hit by drought that they put the property up for sale. “We had to pull out in the end,” Sally says. “We all sat down and thought we can’t sell it, especially when it looked like it was going to a foreign buyer,”
The couple spend half their week working alongside their sons Tom and Jimmie at Cape Campbell, and the rest of the time at their hill country farm, Isolation.
There they run a rare breed of merino, the Saxon, which suits the steep country and the higher rainfall. They’re a small breed that originated in Saxony, in Germany.
“They’ve got a bit of German fire and determination in them,” Rob says, “They’re a bit like farming a wild animal.”
Sally adds: “I really admire them. They’re a very tough little sheep and we run them in a very natural way. They still have all their wild attributes.”
The merino is traditionally a desert animal but the Saxons have been bred so their wool can withstand a higher rainfall.
And the Saxons have delivered. Their wool is much sought-after by the high end of the fashion industry, commanding a premium price, up to 15 times that of crossbred wool at $30 a kilo.
Find out more about Ron and Sally's merino here.
Find out more about Saxon merinos in New Zealand here.
Find out more about Cape Campbell here.
Find out more about walks near Cape Campbell here.
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