Castlepoint Station

July 2011

A profile of Castlepoint Station since the 1990's

In the 1990s an American farming family from New York State bought Castlepoint Station in the Wairarapa . They swapped 300 acres of highly sought after real estate for a relatively isolated 2,950 hectare station one hour’s drive from Masterton.

Emily & Anders Crofoot come from Westchester County, which is in New York State. Emily’s family owned Braewold – a 300 acre (120 ha) property about 65 miles from the heart of New York. The property had been in her family for 7 generations .

Emily says the move to NZ was also because it was also becoming increasingly difficult to stand up for the kind of rural values they held important with suburban New York State gradually moving in on their land.

Anders works for Fund Marketing Group – a global investment company – doing quantitative analysis. He’d also grown up in Westchester and knew Emily from way back.

He works out of an office in the homestead. He has a computer science degree and shifted to financial research some time ago having worked on the systems for the Fund Marketing Group. He has also been quite involved in technology uptake on the farm.

Anders has recently become Federated Farmers regional president.

“Some people think it’s the most exciting thing they’ve ever heard of and others think we’ve lost it completely.”

Emily had been running the family farm and had attended a Wool Board shearing course in New Zealand some years ago at Tologa Bay. She’s fenced with a high country fencing contractor, done A.I……

There was an existing connection to New Zealand via some common ancestors from Scotland. Emily and Anders came out to NZ for their honeymoon.

With the advice of many experienced friends in the farming sector in New Zealand, including people like Mt Peel’s John Ackland, they compiled a list of criteria for the kind of property they were looking for. Anders cruised the Internet looking at things like the farm monitor programme to get an idea of farm performance and stock carrying capacity as well as the basic number crunching. A coastal property was definitely on the list and they looked at a station somewhere in the Hawkes Bay before settling on Castlepoint.

The station is 2,950 hectares of flats and rolling country. There is 82 hectares forestry.

The station employs five full-time staff. It runs close to 19,000 sheep and 900 or so cattle.

They have increased the lambing percentage based on ewes to the ram from 108% to 132% and weaning weights from 20kg to 28kg, a solid achievement on that country.

They also erected 50km of nine-wire fence creating 40 new paddocks, rebuilt three stockyards, built another two and added a wealth of new technology. Interestingly they use 10-gauge wire and don’t have batons, so fierce is the wind.

One of the big attractions was the fact that it was clear land – no gorse or other problems. They attribute the high standard of the property to manager Peter Laing who spent 40 years at the station working on its development. Much of the hill country is 95 % effective.

To manage the station, the Crofoots have been early adopters of technology. Anders had one of the first pasture probes – they had land use surveys done, soil maps etc etc.

They use two popular farm management software programmes rather than notebooks and eye-ometers.

They have had a policy of getting good advice and are quite serious about making a professional “go” of the place.

Emily and Anders have recently been behind a book celebrating Castlepoint and Peter Laing’s mark on the place.

The Castlepoint Races held on the beach, have a history of their own. The race meeting is usually in March but hasn’t been held for some seasons because of a lack of sand.

A main road through the property – some 10km or so is one of the biggest management changes they made after taking over the property.

The station used to own the Holiday Park and have take it back over in the last little while.

The Crofoots have in the past had some input into the battle over lamb imports to the US. Their position was that basically the US should be supporting global trade not putting obstacles in the way. They say that NZ Lamb is not a competing product but a complimentary one. The US carcasses are bigger and are grain fed whereas the NZ product is grass fed and generally smaller.


19 October 2010

Castlepoint Station book, by an American in the Wairarapa

The positive face of farming immigration is being celebrated this Labour Weekend, with Federated Farmers Wairarapa provincial president and former New Yorkers, Anders Crofoot and his wife Emily, launching a book about their iconic hill country Castlepoint Station.

“We realised that unless oral histories were recorded, we’d lose the many and varied personalities that have come and gone through Castlepoint Station,” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Wairarapa provincial president

“Before he died, the late great Peter Laing filled a number of tapes about the rich tapestry that is Castlepoint Station. This is especially important for the development period, where Castlepoint went from just 3,000 stock in the early 1950’s, to 30,000 in the 1990’s.

“Our sadness with the project comes from the fact that Peter’s wife, Nan, passed away before she could see the magnificent tribute this book is. Alex Hedley, of Hedleys Books, has done a superb job editing the material recorded by Peter and later fleshed out by Nan.

“Alex also did numerous interviews to craft a book that is very much the story of New Zealanders. It’s a rich 272 pages and 300 images of Kiwi farmers doing the seemingly impossible.

“Emily and I see our assistance with the book, is our way of giving back to the Wairarapa community and the wider Laing family. They warmly welcomed us, a family of Americans from the eastern seaboard, into their East Coast community.

“As New Zealanders, we sometimes overlook just how important our history is and what a rich history Castlepoint has.

“Emily and I have been farming here for the past 12-years and you couldn’t get a stronger contrast with up-state New York if you tried.

“Emily was raised on a seventh-generation family farm whereas my background was in quantitative analysis. I guess fairly unconventional for a modern Kiwi sheep and beef farmer

“But we’ve had no regrets at all about moving half way around the world with our family. We bonded with the community almost as soon as we unpacked our suitcases.

“The book itself tells the story of the wider Castlepoint and coastal community, about that iconic Lighthouse, the historic beach races and even the fishing industry.

“Yet this is not just a history because Castlepoint, as a modern and innovative hill country station, is firmly in the twenty-first century,” Mr Crofoot concluded.

Station facts and figures :

Area: 2,950 hectares 7,290 acres

Contour: 290 hectares flats and terrace 716 acres

1,564 hectares easy undulating 3,864 acres

1095 rolling to steeper 2,705 acres

Forestry: 82 hectares 202 acres

Livestock numbers at 30 June

Sheep Cattle

1998 19,665 984

1999 21,960 1,078

2000 20,123 994

2001 19,602 1,014

2002 19,953 1,384

2003 20,773 1,098

2004 19,774 1,438

2005 21,514 1,294

2006 20,993 1,179

2007 17,275 448

2008 20,184 718

2009 19,065 973

2010 18,971 870

2007-2010 were drought effected