Episode 30 - Set in Stone
On the next episode, screening 7th October 2018 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Charles and Erin Douglas Clifford both had careers in banking before switching the brogues for gumboots and coming home to take over management of the family farm. Stonyhurst, a 2000 hectare sheep, beef and deer operation, was farmed until recently by Charles’ father, John and uncle, Peter. John and Peter ran it for forty years and four generations of Douglas Cliffords farmed it before them.
“Charles Clifford was New Zealand’s first Speaker of the House, and his cousin, Frederick Weld was New Zealand’s 6th Premiere, and they started Stonyhurst,” says John. “They knew Christchurch was about to be settled and saw an opportunity to provide stock to new settlers.”
Charles and Erin combine a respect for the way Charles’ forebears farmed, with an insatiable thirst for innovation, using technology and social media in ways their ancestors could never have dreamed.
“Dad and Peter farmed with a heads-down, bums-up mentality and weren’t too fussed about skiting about what they did,” notes Charles. “But we’re proud of what we do and we want to share it with everyone”.
It’s a breath-taking property with rolling, tree-clad hills spanning the Blythe Valley, and coastal cliffs with views from Banks Peninsula to Kaikoura.
All three families still live on farm, with several staff as well but there’s room for everyone to have their own space. Peter and Fiona have an entirely off-grid new-build, while Charles’ parents, John and Robyn, are painstakingly restoring the 1893 homestead which sustained considerable damage in both the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes. Sandstone used in the repair is cut from Stonyhurst’s own quarry.
Old meets new in every aspect of life on Stonyhurst. In the sheep-breeding programme - where they focus on footrot-resistant, meat and mid-to-fine wool from a Lincoln-Merino cross - old-school animal husbandry is monitored by high-tech data management. Even in the paddock, every stock movement is logged by smart phone as the shepherd closes the gate, showing up immediately on a cloud-based farm map, visible to every member of the team.
“I don't think we're really doing anything new and exciting, though”, says Charles, “I think we're just enhancing and growing from what Dad and Peter did and their ancestors before them.”
Find out more about Stonyhurst here.
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