Father and son Mark and Phil Guscott check the lambs. PHOTOS/ROZ MASON.
For Mark and Susannah Guscott, the roots to their South Wairarapa farm are deep.
Glen Eden, just outside Martinborough, has been in Mark’s family since his ancestor Te Aitu married John Milsom Jury six generations ago.
Today, the couple farm sheep and beef, as well as a variety of crops, but their place in a long line of ancestors stretching back into pre-European New Zealand is never far from their minds.
“The old people did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. We do our best, but one day my grandchildren might say “What were you thinking’,” he said.
His approach to farming is that the soil is a taonga to be cared for, for future generations.
He avoids grazing heavy cattle over winter and is moving increasingly towards no-till cropping and direct-drilling where he can to preserve soil structure.
Diversity is also key.
While hot, dry Wairarapa summers suit their crops, irrigation is still a must.
Before taking over the farm, his parents Phil and Jo Guscott installed a pivot irrigator which back in the 1980s was considered state-of-the-art.
Mark took irrigating to a whole new level by upgrading to a variable-rate model which, informed by high-tech weather, soil-moisture, and crop-yield data, moderates the flow of each individual nozzle to meet the water needs of each patch of soil.
“We used 20 per cent less water in the first year, and never looked back,” he said.
“It doesn’t save us money, unless you count a little bit of power. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Doing the right thing is central to their thinking.
“I don’t get involved in the day-to-day stuff”, Susannah said.
“I’m more focused on the big picture. Things like ‘do we really need to put more land into grazing if more and more people are going to move to a plant-based diet?’, that kind of thing.”
Similarly, the couple work hard to protect the waterways.
Believing that nature and waterways have no regard for boundaries and landownership, Susannah and her neighbours have formed an ecological collective to reduce run-off into the Ruamahanga and beautify the area, planting wetlands and riparian areas in natives.
“We all get together and can put a huge number of plants in the ground in an afternoon, whereas it would take just the owners of the land weeks to do on their own.”
Mark and Susannah are set to appear on TV One’s Country Calendar on Sunday [March 29] at 7pm.