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Farmers set to open their gates

The team at Motu-nui Enterprises. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

This Sunday, farmers across the country will open their gates to the public as part of the Open Farms Day. Ahead of the weekend’s adventures GIANINA SCHWANECKE spoke to some of the Wairarapa farmers who would be sharing their stories.

Palliser Ridge
Kurt and Lisa Portas at Palliser Ridge in South Wairarapa are no strangers to having visitors on their farm.

“Our whole brand is about sharing with the wider community and our consumers,” Lisa said.

Kurt and Lisa Portas with Marilyn and Jim Law of Palliser Ridge. PHOTO/FILE

Palliser Ridge is a 1320-hectare [1150-hectare effective] coastal sheep and beef property in Pirinoa.

In addition to farming, they also offer Palliser Ridge Farm Tours, wool processing classes for the products they produce at the Woolshed Store, and on-farm accommodation, Kaikoura Lookout.

Lisa has completed a research project about farm storytelling as part of the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme.

“Off the back of [that], it seemed like a no-brainer,” she said.

She said making the event family-friendly had been a priority.

“We are going to share the story of our farm from the beginning. We are going to start from the ground up with the soil.”

Activities would include a shearing demonstration, a talk through the different stages of production, knitting, needle punch, and wool dying lessons.

“I think people are really interested in understanding these processes.”

Husband Kurt would also give a talk about the farm’s environmental policies, which included the use of dung beetles and re-establishing native vegetation.

Tickets for their farm tours had initially sold out, but the couple had opened up more spaces.

She said she was excited for the weekend.

“We thought we’d start small, but then we sold out. It’s neat that we are expecting a good turnout.”

The tour would be held from 2-4pm.

More information can be found online, at openfarms.co.nz/event/palliser-ridge

Motu-nui Enterprises

For second-generation farmer Jason Le Grove, the day is about encouraging the next generation of primary producers.

“If one family turns up with a little kid who walks away thinking, ‘I want to be a farmer’, that’s great,” he said.

Le Grove said the divide between urban and rural New Zealand was huge, and there weren’t as many opportunities for children to experience farm life.

“I didn’t come back to farming until late in life. A lot of my town friends’ kids fall in love with farming life when I show them what we do.”

Motu-nui Rams is not just a stud, he said.

They also run finishing stock and cash cropping on the 1700-hectare property in Whareama.

“We work hard for what we’ve got.”

Farm activities would include sheep feeding, working dogs, shearing, sheep drafting, and a tractor and wagon ride to the airstrip.

It would also be a chance to check out the historic station which included the oldest working woolshed in the country – which recently celebrated 152 years of running.

“Ica Station is pretty iconic,” he said.

Le Grove also hoped to raise funds through koha entry to support the Southon family who lost father and son, Darren and Josh in a diving accident off the Mataikona coast earlier this year.

The tour will be held from 10am-3pm.

More information can be found online, at openfarms.co.nz/event/motu-nui-enterprises/

Bagshot Farm

Michael and Kate Tosswill of Bagshot Farm in Masterton. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

At the other end of Wairarapa, Michael and Kate Tosswill are doing their own work to encourage the wool industry from their farm, Bagshot.

Michael is a third-generation Wairarapa farmer while Kate is originally from Auckland.

The couple has launched their new business venture, Hipi, which sells products crafted from wool grown by lambs on their 586-hectare farm near Masterton.

“I’m a keen knitter and used to work in the fibre industry,” Kate said.

The lambs wool is taken right through the production process – from shearing, through to scouring, milling, and manufacturing.

Each part of the process supports a local Kiwi business.

Kate said they signed up for the Open Farms Day because they wanted to do their bit to help people understand just what farmers do.

“As farmers, we need to do our bit to tell New Zealanders about where their food and fibre is produced.

“We need to get better at telling our story.”

She hoped it would offer a community feel and show how rural families were connected.

Activities on the day would include a shearing demonstration, a talk from a wool industry expert, sheep viewing and other games for children.

A sausage sizzle would also be provided, and those who were able were invited to take part in a walk to a vantage point for a farm viewing.

The tour will be held from 10am-1pm.

More information can be found online, at openfarms.co.nz/event/bagshot-farm/

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