Episode 7 - By the Blue Pacific
On the next episode, screening Sunday 22 April 2018 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
When Paul and Tania Dewhirst first got together, they wanted to go farming and decided the best way to get started was share-milking.
They worked their way up the ladder for over a decade in Tapawera, south of Nelson, raising three children and also saving money as they went, till finally they had enough capital to buy their own farm.
They wanted a change from dairying and fell in love with a farm at Kekerengu, north of Kaikoura.
But the only way they could afford the farm was to subdivide it, sell the magnificent homestead with its sea views, and live in a more modest second house on the farm. Even then they were struggling, with no money left over to buy stock.
Although the area is traditional sheep country, they have come up with a way of farming that involves no sheep at all.
They buy bobby calves every spring at minimal cost, feed them on milk powder and then graze them till they are two years old, by which time the bulls weigh at least 600 kilos and are ready for slaughter.
They also graze dairy heifers and from both those sources of income, they are slowly building up their own herd of Angus cattle.
Paul says farming bulls is a challenge. “We have to put up with a lot of broken gates and broken troughs, but in the end it’s all worth it,” he says.
Aside from raising cattle, Tania has developed a separate business using her green fingers. She has created a large garden on a hill next to the house that used to be a drought-prone open paddock.
She runs tours of the garden and has planted out large areas in lavender, which is perfectly suited to the dry climate.
She sells fresh lavender flowers to a Blenheim supermarket, making the two-hour return drive once a week.
She also distils the flowers to produce lavender oil, which she sells in a shop she’s built in her own garden.
Paul says their move 11 years ago from dairying in Tapawera to cattle-farming in coastal Marlborough meant making huge adjustments.
They were used to having irrigation and, as Fonterra suppliers, they didn’t have to think about marketing their produce. “Now we totally rely on the weather and totally rely on playing the markets,” he says.
Tania agrees their life is completely different, but says: “I really love this farm, it’s got everything, it’s got the mountains, the sea and the hills. It’s great.”
For more about Tania's garden and lavender, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about Kekerengu here.
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