Federated Farmers Open Day 2010

May 2010

Closing the gap between urban and rural dwellers through an Open Day

Farm Day is designed to help bridge the growing gap between rural and urban dwellers. Realising that many people dont have access to a farm and dont really know how their food is produced, Federated Farmers Farm Day gives people an opportunity to meet with farmers, see some demonstrations of different farming activities and try some for themselves.

The simple act of eating involves everyone in agriculture, says Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers President.

New Zealanders take for granted that they have access to quality food but few have visited a farm or thought about the source of their meals.

Farmers in New Zealand are some of the worlds best producers but very rarely are their efforts recognised outside the farming community.

Were giving you the chance to meet with farmers who are passionate about their job and the land it depends on.

Federated Farmers have created Farm Day, following the successful UK program Open Farm Sunday. Visitors are encouraged to take part in a guided farm walk with a local farmer guide, who will be open to questions and be able to share their own experiences.

The 2010 Farm Day involves 22 working farms across the country opening their gates to show the townies what farmers actually do.

Fed Farmers agenda for the day is getting across their environmental stewardship, and remind townies of the backbone status of farming to Nz economy. This year they also have a green theme focussed on the healthy way farmers grow food for the nation and for export.

Farm Day is a free family event, designed to be a fun day out in the country that the kids will enjoy, to help connect rural and urban communities.

Hawkes Bays Farm Day hosts this year (2010) are Philip & Robyn Holt.

The Holts have been farming since 1982 but property has been in family much longer than that. Philips father took on the farm in 1948. Prior to the 1931 earthquake and significant part of the flats were under water.

The Holts are currently running a mixture of sheep, cattle and goats.

The property is predominantly coast dry hill country. Around 1000 ha in total, this includes a couple of blocks not connected to the main farm.

The main 700ha block runs 3,000 coopworth/romdale ewes. They lamb in august and early September. There are 340 Angus breeding cows in addition 520 cattle are run from weaners through to replacement heifers, rising two year old steers and heifers.

Theres also Boer cross goats. The Holts prefer the cross bred goats to the pure Boers believing they have stronger constitutions and cope well with the dry conditions in the Bay.

The variety of stock classes is to give Philip plenty of flexibility in a drought year.

The Holts made a big shift in farm policy since the 1982 drought. That particular drought came on top on SMPs being dropped. That year they had their best lambing ever, were fully stocked and had no flexibility in terms of trading stock.

They had no water and little infrastructure to get feed to stock where and when they needed it. The whole experience got them thinking about developing some resilience into their system.

Over the last 30 years developed that system - harvesting water and setting up reticulation along with tree planting and significant changes in stock management.

The farm ranges from flats through rolling country, to steep hills. Theyre typically dry and hot during the summer. Lack of water is a major limitation. They try and farm to the conditions keeping a close eye on stock numbers and the feed wedge they have ahead of them. Rain in summer can evaporate in a few days when the northwest winds blow.

Philip says water is the biggest limiting factor. In an average year streams dry up in October and dont flow again until March.

As insurance they have a large water storage dam for stock water. They also have two springs and two wells on different areas of the farm. Where possible they have made dams in some paddocks. Water is pumped to troughs around the farm.

They have also bought another block in a higher rainfall zone to give themselves more options and flexibility.

The area is starting to be subdivided and that place further demands on water especially from bores.

On the flats they grow lucerne believing that it is good for the soil as it helps fix nitrogen.

Lambs go on the lucerne in spring and early summer. They then mow the lucerne in late summer and feed out to the stock in winter or when it gets really dry.

Pasture composition and moisture status are very different between different parts of the farm. North facing slopes have a lot of ratstail and little clover south faces are a lot more diverse and hold moisture better.

The property is renowned for its trees. Philip is actively involved with farm forestry association.

There are extensive plantings of amenity trees, natives and a large area of commercial forest. About 20% of the property is planted in trees, 10% of that is commercial forestry and remainder is for things like timber, stock shelter and shade, fodder, bee food, erosion control etc.

The commercial trees are pine but Philip is interested in other varieties.

On the property are Carob trees an evergreen in the pea family. It is cultivated worldwide for its edible seed pods. The trees can grow up to 10 metres the fruit pods can take a year to ripen. They are thought to fix nitrogen have deep roots and are fairly salt tolerant.

The ultimate goal is for the whole farm to be planted with adequate shelter and shade. The biggest constraint to that is the need to make a living from the farm!!

Tress also bring extra costs double fences and possum control extra time etc. But the benefits outweigh them.