Producing dairy, forestry and fruit produce
Dairy farmer and orchardist Julian Raine is adding value and increasing consumer understanding about primary sector production through his family farm and associated businesses. Rural Delivery first visited Julian shortly after he was appointed Horticulture New Zealand’s president in 2013. That role ended in June 2019. He is currently occupied running the family farm, holding directorships at Wairua Hops and Waimea Water. He is a member of the Primary Sector Council and recently became co-chair of the Nelson Climate Forum (launched at the end of February 2020).
Julian is also one of the founders of local ice-cream company, Appleby Farms. These positions and ventures are all testament to his philosophy of the importance of producers connecting with consumers while running a commercial, sustainable operation.
Julian’s family has lived on Oaklands Farm in the increasingly built-up area between Stoke and Richmond in the Nelson region for over 175 years. The 460ha property supports a dairy herd of 100 cows, as well as finishing dairy beef (as 2 and 3-year olds) and 100ha of forestry blocks. There is also a quarry on the farm. The business owns a second farm, located about 50 kms further south of the home farm, and eight berry and apple orchard sites on the Waimea Plains.
Being located close to town has meant growth and expansion by purchasing neighboring properties is not an option, so the Raine’s have had to think harder about how to make a living off their land. They have diversified over the years into a variety of sectors, including apples and berries, and have additionally created opportunities to add value to the produce grown on farm and in the orchards. They have around 200ha of apples, 10ha of gold kiwifruit and 30ha of boysenberries (producing about 90% of New Zealand’s boysenberries). The boysenberries are supplied B2B, to manufacturers and processors for yoghurts, jams and other products.
The Oaklands Farm herd has been reduced from 200 (in 2014) to 100 milking cows (in 2020), all with double A2 genetics. Calves are reared for finishing on the farm, PKE is not used as supplement feed, and recyclable glass bottles are used in the dairy operation. Cows are dried off in early December with autumn calving beginning again in mid-late March. Their Farm Plan was drawn up by an independent consultant and has been signed off by the local council.
Pasteurised (but not homogenised) milk produced at Oaklands can be purchased at the farm by the public, through milk vending machines. Milk (in glass bottles) is also delivered locally through an independent contractor, Milk & More. Julian has created two brands for their milk: Oaklands Milk (the local regional brand), and Aunt Jean’s Dairy (available throughout New Zealand). A small amount of production goes to Fonterra. Local cheesemakers Little River and Viavio use milk from Oaklands Farm to produce a variety of cheeses.
The dairy operation supports 21 FTE staff on farm, in the factory, and the delivery run. Julian’s son Tom runs the factory. Cream is sent to Appleby Farms for making their premium brand ice-cream.
More recently, Julian and fellow dairy farmer, Murray King, founded Appleby Farms, a local ice-cream manufacturer, along with two other families who shared their philosophy of food production and connection with consumers.
As well as the flexibility that diversification brings, a driver for the operation is Julian’s desire to help the consumer understand food production better. He says, “People need to know where their food comes from, just as wine growers tend to promote the area where grapes are grown, the same can be done for food”. He believes it supports better decision making by consumers and is a strong supporter of Country of Origin labelling.
At Oaklands Farm, set as a KPI for the business, is to have a minimum of 350 individuals visit each year, as individuals, or on group tours. Julian says young people are a particular focus, from pre-school visits (when children ask about the animals) to secondary and tertiary students (where the questions raised are more often about animal welfare and the environment).
A forestry block on Oaklands has supported Pinus radiata and, having harvested one block in 2019, Julian is diversifying the farm planting to include, macrocarpa, manuka, redwood, douglas fir and eucalyptus trees.
A big part of food production is meeting compliance requirements, and Julian estimates there is an average of one audit every month for the various farm and food production activities he is involved in.
Julian says many of his ideas for diversification come as a result of working with his business partners and engaging with local and international clients to find out what they want. His Nuffield scholarship in the late 1990s played a big part in opening his eyes to other opportunities.
He believes better engagement from every part of the chain is the key to explaining what farmers do and more importantly, why they do it, and if and why they should change. He observes that in previous years, farmers have been encouraged to focus behind the farm gate, leaving the making and crafting to external manufacturers without any input – but that is rapidly changing.
Showdown Productions Ltd – Rural Delivery Series 15 2020