For Green Party candidate John Hart, soil and clover on his 50-acre farm are the main workers that result in an efficient farm. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON
It may well be a long way to Tipperary but for Wairarapa’s Green Party candidate his long journey was from the corporate world of Auckland to the lush pastures of rural Masterton.
Times-Age reporter Beckie Wilson caught up with Mr Hart on his organic farm last week.
When Green party candidate John Hart swapped his corporate Auckland lifestyle for the rural dream 10 years ago, he never thought he would be running for parliament.
But what triggered it for him was the birth of his daughter five years ago.
He realised he was grumpy with the government and with the state of the environment.
That was when he wanted to make a difference for the future of his children.
Mr Hart and his wife, Karen Monks, don’t regret their move from Auckland where they both worked high pressure jobs in the IT industry.
“We had a lifestyle block in West Auckland, we were commuting to the city which was part of the pull.
“The city was getting in the way of our lifestyle and it was getting harder and harder to have a life,” Mr Hart said.
When a friend showed the couple the 50-acre block of land in rural Masterton they now own, they “fell in love with the place”.
“It’s not until you leave and look back and realise how much stress there is living with that pace of life, everything is just different.”
During their time on a lifestyle block, they became passionate about food production, living sustainably and being self-sufficient. These values have transferred to their Wairarapa farm.
The pair both have rural backgrounds — Mr Hart was born on a farm in the far north but moved to the city when he was young, and Ms Monks has a successful equestrian career.
When they moved to the farm, Ms Monks transferred her job to Wellington and commuted for two years.
But Mr Hart dedicated his time to building up the farm – which was a large block of land with a house plonked on it.
“I focused on the farm and stayed here and built up the infrastructure, and put in fences and water systems to get the farm established,” he said.
Their lounge views boast the best in Wairarapa.
From a single window, the Tararua Ranges can be seen and, to the left on a clear day, the entire Wairarapa valley and out to Cape Palliser.
They have four horses, two goats, chickens, pigs and two beehives, as well as Angus beef cattle and Wiltshire sheep.
“For us having the girls growing up on the farm is the best thing. Giving them the gift of living on a farm I think is pretty neat . . . they get the best of both worlds,” he said.
The couple have two daughters Holly, 5, and Alex, 2.
Ms Monks has taken over as chief beekeeper while her husband travels Wairarapa campaigning.
To Mr Hart, the bees are the farm workers that keep the grass growing.
The pair have been organic since day one.
Running an organic farm, there is a high dependence on nature using bees to pollenate clover that fixes nitrogen in the soil.
Mr Hart said his major focus is building up the farm’s soil.
“The single biggest thing we did was stop putting superphosphate on the ground, immediately we saw worm life coming back and clover coming back.”
Mr Hart admitted being involved in politics “wasn’t even on my radar”.
“It’s bad that it takes your own child to really care about the world, that was what did it for me.”
Mr Hart said it’s easy when policies and the party he represents align with his values.
“I believe in the policies, and I genuinely think [Green Party] could change the country.”
He said the last election campaign made him realise how much is being done at ground level across the region.
“I came across so many local groups doing bottoms up stuff from stream restoration to food banks, you name it.”
One of his political drives is to help small, local businesses get ahead. He would like to see specific MPI regulations for local producers such as relevant compliance costs.
A long-term goal would be to sell products from their farm, such as honey, but there are hurdles to jump first.
“Everything is set up for the big players who are already established and it acts as a barrier for small, new ones to pop up but we need them to pop up to be the future producers.
For Mr Hart, climate change and the introduction of synthetic products to the country are two rural issues people aren’t talking enough about.
His answer is to focus on smaller businesses and sell the products for a higher premium.
With a 10-year record in the corporate IT industry and now being a sheep and beef farmer, Mr Hart feels he has a “boot in both camps”.
Mr Hart also co-founded Fab Lab in Masterton about two years ago which he said is a “constant evolving model”.
Mr Hart doesn’t want to force any of his ideals and beliefs on people, which some people think the Green Party is guilty of doing, he said.
“Organic isn’t for everyone, its more about being open to ideas.
“We all live here, we all want to have a future here,” he said.