Visiting a Farm in Fairlie, New Zealand
21-day Trip to Australia and New Zealand series
Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer
One of the unique experiences of the land tour trip through New Zealand was to visit and sleep over on a farm.
Published on LatinoLA: May 12, 2015
We left Dunedin and headed north toward the city of Christchurch. We were headed to Christchurch in order to catch our flight to Australia the following day. On our final night in New Zealand, we had lodging on a farm outside the town of Fairlie.
Fairlie is located approximately half way between Dunedin, to the south, and the city of Christchurch, to the north.
The town of Fairlie is in a beautiful green valley. The town has a population of 700. There are two elementary schools. The elementary schools share a population of 130 students. The secondary school has 213 students.
Upon arriving to Fairly, our traveling family of 19 was subdivided into groups of four. Each group was hosted by a local family overnight on their farm. We stayed with a wonderful couple that mainly raise sheep. Lots of them! Clearly we won't have trouble sleeping here. Tons of real sheep to count.
Our best friends Jesus and Rosemary, plus Trini and I, were picked up by Barbara Adams. We met her friendly husband Steve at their ranch.
As soon as we arrived, he took us on a tour in his jeep throughout the farm. It was a bumpy ride. We got to see the valley from the top of the hill. We also saw cattle and domesticated deer. They currently had four large stags (males).
They are currently raising 4,500 lambs and sheep. I had to do some research on the difference between sheep and lambs. It turns out that when they are first born they are referred to as lambs and as they get older they become sheep. It's an oversimplification but it goes along those lines.
When it's time to impregnate the sheep, they bring into the pens 1 ram per 100 sheep. The rams tend to lose a great deal of body weight during the mating season. A great deal could be written about the situation of the poor rams but we will leave that for another time.
Steve and Barbara find it necessary to diversify the land use. Like a great portion of land in New Zealand, the land allows for short grass to grow and can feed them. The majority of lambs they raise are sold as meat and shipped to England and European countries.
Their farm is approximately 1,500 acres. Their area is part flat and a portion of it on a hillside. It's a large area that understandably requires continual daily management. Each type of animal that they raise requires specialized attention. They have divided the acreage with different fences in order to micromanage the land use. The number of farm laborers in the area has been decreasing since many of Kiwis have left for Australia to work there. Consequently sheep herding dogs are very important to manage the sheep and cattle. These dogs truly earn their keep. I must admit that our Bichon back home wouldn't respond to any of many whistle commands these working dogs respond to.
From the few stories we heard from Steve and Barbara, we realized that farming is not a career, it's an entire lifestyle. It's an activity that they both manage from sunup to sundown.
Barbara shared that she grew in this town and earned her degree in nursing. She did not want to become a farmer's wife. So what happened? She married a farmer. Steve is a third generation farmer. They have 3 daughters and a son. Currently, none of them live on the farm.
What is new for Steve and Barbara is to sell sheep that will be shipped alive to Mexico. Apparently the Mexican government is buying them and giving them out to encourage people to leave the cities and return to farming and raising lambs.
Their cattle, like others in the area, are butchered and shipped to the U.S. I thought we had enough cattle back home but since we are currently experiencing a major drought in the Southwest, we are consequently importing beef. That might explain why beef is so expensive in Los Angeles.
Steve informed us that they raise two kinds of lambs. One for meat and the other strictly for the wool. The ones with clear faces were for wool and the ones with dark face ones are raised for their meat. The wool is exported and mainly used for floor carpets.
In the quiet evening we had the opportunity to sit and talk about our backgrounds over some wine and fruit. Barbara prepared for us a wonderful dinner. We had potatoes, carrots, beans, corn on the cob and, of course, lamb. The dinner was quite tasty.
As we prepared to go to sleep we took time to go to their back yard and star gaze. I had been wanting to be in the Southern Hemisphere and look at the Milky Way. Since this region is sparsely populated and minimal air and light pollution, I though I could see it. We were in luck. The daytime clouds had dispersed and there it was in all its magnificence and brilliance across the sky. What a wonderful experience to see it from here.
As we marveled at the stars, it was surprising to hear the loud mating calls of their 3 large stags (male deer). It was an eerie sound as it was almost completely dark outside. I hoped we could not hear their callings throughout the night and keep us awake.
As I was falling asleep, I realized how much we depend on farmers who face the daily challenges of running a labor intensive and complex business.
The visit to the farm also provided a glimpse to the life of many who live raising livestock, in this country, as well as back home.
By our conversations with the Steve and Barbara, I realized that farmers are continually adapting to the forces of nature, innovation, international market fluctuations for products and prices. Without rain, at the right times, means not being able to feed the lambs. Lamb grows are in competition with dairy growers for water and resources. The price of meat, like other farm products throughout the world, can fluctuate very quickly and can make the entire stock worth less than it costs to raise it. There is also the issue of diseases that can attack livestock. There could be an epidemic that wipes out the herds.
Having visited and talk with Steve and Barbara provided me with a greater appreciation for those that provide us with food each day. I also keep thinking of the farm laborers that strain their bodies in the fields through hot and cold weather. I'm thinking of the farm laborers, throughout the world, that feed all of us! None of us can afford to take food producers for granted.
We sleep very comfortably. We had to return to our traveling group in the morning but we didn't leave until we had great strong coffee and enjoyed seeing a light fog rising from the fields.
We thanked the Adams Family for sharing their lives with us.
Our next stop will be Christchurch, New Zealand.
Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer:
Armando F Sanchez is a national speaker, writer, worldwide traveler and CEO of Armando F Sanchez Production. His organization produces global web cast and podcast programming.
Email the author