The Family Farm
Committed to producing healthy food; practicing ethical animal husbandry; regenerative land stewardship; building local community and economy; providing accommodation, education and inspiration.
The Family Farm is a 610ha or 1500 acre sheep and cattle station called Mangarara near the rural village of Elsthorpe in Central Hawkes Bay. But like the rapid changes happening on our planet, the farm is transitioning to be a farm of the future, restoring balance by developing diverse intergrated regenerative farming systems, and co creating ecosystems through tree planting programs, our eco-lodge accommodation and education centre, and also opening the farm to the public to enable others to reconnect to the earth that sustains us.
We choose to use the name “The Family Farm” because our principals are based on traditional family values of stewardship of the land, holding it in sacred trust for future generations, it is a gift that has been handed down to us by those who have come before and to honour them and future generations we need to treat all life with reverance as opposed to the corporate model which treats land, water and animals as a resource to be converted to financial profit.
We also use “The Family Farm” name because the time has come to realise we are all family. We have all evolved from the same primordial soup and we all share a common future. To meet the significant challenges the future holds as we bring our lifestyles back within the boundaries set by nature we must dispel the greatest myth of our time. The myth of separation, as all life is connected and science is now confirming what spiritual teaches have been saying for centuries.
Every day we are choosing our future. How we grow our food is the key to the health of our environment the health of bio diversity and of course the health of people and ultimately the health of society. So producing healthy food from healthy soil is our primary focus as the food choices we make every day are in fact votes for the kind of world we will leave for our children. Making wise choices and being part of positive change, growing healthy food and caring for the environment is very empowering and enables us to take back the power we have lost to corporate and political greed.
We are eternally grateful for being here at this time of great change on earth and the privilege and duty we have as producers of food. We invite you to journey with us and share the responsibility of caring for the land and water and the life it sustains.
We’re on a mission to restore our landscape and grow our community, one Meat Box at a time, and we’re inviting you to be a part of it!
Experience the wholesome goodness of our high quality, ethically raised and locally butchered Berkshire Pork, Angus Beef & Texel Lamb, delivered direct to your door!
Buying our produce supports our work to restore our landscape in a number of ways, including;
Buying our produce also helps to grow and strengthen our community by;
Our ‘Big Meat Boxes’ and ‘Little Meat Boxes’ are available from our Farm Shop as one-off purchases or monthly subscriptions.
If our Meat Boxes are not for you, you can support our vision in other ways by becoming a ‘Friend of the Farm‘ which contributes $20 towards tree planting and connects you with other opportunities to be part of The Family Farm : )
From activities with the sheep and beef farming, helping out with the Berkshire pigs, the dairy cows, to adding a hand in the veggie gardens and general household chores, there is always something to pitch in and help with at The Family Farm. We like to provide a variety of tasks throughout your stay so that as a visitor you leave feeling you have truly experienced life on The Family Farm. We have a lovely cabin for our wwoofers to stay in with its own bath and toilet facilities. Meals are had with the family and always centered around farm produce. Let’s just say you won’t go hungry here!
We have had wwoofers coming to share in our life and work here for 9 years now. We love the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and share ideas about farming, food, and life. Here is some feedback from a few of the multitudes of people we have hosted over the years:
“…I came to the “Hart Heaven” Thanks for sharing your knowledge with me, Greg & Rachel, and for opening your home and hearts to me. This is a perfect place to experience “kiwi heaven” back to the earth and its glory. Every day was a new adventure…I will remember this time for years to come!” Joyce – USA
“Dear Greg, Rachel, George, Bill, Emma, Lea, Tony + most importantly Otis (the cat)! Thank you so much for a wonderful nearly 3 weeks here in your beautiful part of the world. You all make an amazing family who made me feel warm and welcome at all times…Thank you for reminding a tired nurse that there is still compassion and kindness in the world and renewing my interest in the importance of nutrition, the environment and kindness.” Merril – York, United Kingdom
“Thank you for everything, we have really enjoyed our stay. Thanks for all “Experiences de la ferme.” The cottage with the lake view was like a five start hostel, and your property is awesome. It was nice to spend two weeks with you and your way of life. We gonna miss you and our bellies gonna miss your awesome food. Merci Beaucoup!” Celine & Jeff – France
For more information and to plan your stay contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
We feel very privileged to be the home of Regen Ag in New Zealand. This group was founded by Australian broad acre permaculture teacher Darren Doherty back in 2011 and now has branches in 10 countries around the world.
Regen AG is committed to bringing some of the world’s leading pioneers of Regenerative Agriculture to share their ideas with farmers through a series of short courses and workshops.
The focus of Regenerative Agriculture is on building soils, restoring watercourses, and encouraging biodiversity, while reducing dependency on outside inputs, improving livestock health and increasing farm yields and profitability.
As part of this group we have organised 3 visits to New Zealand for Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm in Virginia USA. Described by Time magazine as “the world’s most innovative farmer” Joel has inspired much of the change on our farm.
His philosophy is about stacking layers of production onto the land using nature as the guide. An example of this is to have a flock of hens following behind holistically grazed cattle. The hens are spreading the cattle manure with their scratching, they are sanatizing the pasture by pecking out bugs and parasites and they are spreading their own manure as fertilizer and producing eggs for sale.
A movement that is sweeping the world right now is Permaculture.
“Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.
The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.”
We are trying to follow these principles as much as we can on Mangarara where enterprises are complimentary to each other and have multiple functions. An example of this would be our dairy shed which is designed for producing milk for calf rearing to create an income for the farm and also reduce the embodied energy in buying milk powder for calves. The dairy supplies milk for the people living on the farm, milk is fed to pigs on the farm and laying hens so we are significantly reducing the amount of grain we are having to purchase. The dairy features in educational visits to the farm where children get to see up close where milk comes from and the dairy is also an attraction that guests staying in the lodge can experience. Any manure that does get left behind in the shed is either put in the worm farm or sprayed back onto pastures for fertility. SO there is an example of permaculture where one enterprise is creating 8 different benefits.
Holistic Management is a decision-making framework which results in ecologically regenerative, economically viable and socially sound management of the world’s grasslands.
Holistic Management was first developed over 40 years ago by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean biologist, game ranger, politician, farmer, and rancher, who was searching for ways to save the beautiful savannah and its wildlife in southern Africa.
It is based on the observation that over millennia the soils of the great planes of Africa and America have been built with massive herds of grazing herbivores. Always densely grouped and constantly moving to access fresh pasture and keeping ahead of predators. The grass they grazed was long and so a percentage was trampled onto the soil surface with dung and urine which fertilized the ground acted as a mulch to keep the soil covered from the hot sun and ultimately the carbon in the grass is broken down to produce humus.
Holistic management is also a system for business planning and monitoring and can be used as a decision making process that checks any decisions made are in alignment with a pre determined Holistic Goal which all members of the management team create together.
We are using Holistic Grazing and are thrilled with the results we have been getting over the last 2 years. We are moving large mobs of cattle every day using electric fencing, and are recording above average stock growth rates. We have a holistic goal which is a good exercise to do with other people on your team so everyone has input in creating the goal and can feel ownership in it and then it can be used to check decisions made are achieving the desired out comes stated in the goal.
Biological farming is defined as a system of food and fibre production that incorporates natural processes into ag production, ensuring profitable efficient and healthy food. It results in a reduction in external harmful and non renewable inputs with more targeted use of remaining inputs with the aim of reducing costs. It is not anti science because it builds carefully and creatively on advances in scientific knowledge, particularly in the disciplines of biology, ecology and micro biology.
Another objective of biological farming is to increase humus levels in the soil and therefore soil carbon. A 1% increase in soil carbon enables the soil to hold an extra 144,000 litres per ha so it makes sense to store as much water in the soil as possible which builds resilience to drought and produces healthier food.
In my journey over the past decade to understand what a truly sustainable food production system looks like, the best I have found in the western world is a 110 acre farm in SW Wisconsin called New Forest Farm
The farm is owned by Mark Shepherd, who began designing and planting a perennial ecosystem in 1994. The goal was to redesign agriculture in natures image, it is designed to remove carbon dioxide from the air, provide habitat for wildlife, produce food, prevent soil erosion, hold water in the landscape and begin the creation of ecologically sustainable human habitats.
Our global food system is predominantly dependent on 4 main crops, namely wheat corn, soy and rice, all annuals requiring large amounts of energy and inputs to produce. Restoration Ag is producing as many calories per hectare as the same area of corn but when comparing the nutrition value of the food produced on one hectare the Perennial Polyculture wins by far, and the crop is grown with very little energy inputs and the major labour input is at harvest time. It is self fertile and managed under a system called STUN Share Total Utter Neglect.
It is the goal to have at least 7 layers of production in the system which includes Chestnut trees, hazelnut trees, pine nuts apples, berries, and also raise cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys.
Design using keyline principles so rainfall is captured and held in the soil and so any water leaving a property designed in this way is going to be very clean as no chemicals are used.
It makes sense to me to be producing our food from tree crops that can get their roots deeper into the ground to source water and nutrients and they don’t need all the fuel necessary to grow annual crops. In a pastoral context Lucerne is achieving success as a plant with a large root system but it is not an option in our heavy clay soils at Elsthorpe. Our solution to this has been to plant trees in paddocks to create a savannah effect so animals and pasture will get shade reducing evapotranspiration and increasing photosynthesis over a hot summer.
We have been planting nitrogen fixing trees through the paddocks to help with nutrient cycling and to slow down the drying winds. Trials have shown cattle growth rates are improved when they have access to shade.
In2003 I realised that pastoral agriculture, which is the backbone of our economy was reliant on cheap energy to bring nutrients from the other side of the world, mainly Phosphate fertiliser from North Africa. In order to farm sustainably, soils, at a minimum, must be maintained at their current depths and levels of fertility. In a world of surplus energy, unsustainable farming practices can be hidden by “nutrient subsidies” hauled in at great energy costs from far away. But when the energy subsidy is withdrawn, the true state of our farmlands will be revealed.
It is an ongoing journey to close the nutrient cycle associated with growing food, but the tools and knowledge of the systems listed above go along way towards creating the world that gives our children at least the same opportunities we have had.
Our sheep are a Texel Cross. As of June 2012 we carry 2700 sheep. Texels originated from the Texel Island, near Holland. Texels were first introduced into the NZ farming community in 1991. The meat is lean, tender, and succulent. It dominates the Glammy Awards; the tender tasty lamb competition. We are happy to be able to graze our sheep in paddocks with trees, which provide shade, shelter and medicine as our hedgerow system develops the benefits only increase.
Our first pig Polly arrived on the farm in August 2011 and she is now one of four sows. Tina, Viv and Annabelle keep her company, along with Elvis our boar! Our pigs have continual access to lush pasture on the farm and also enjoy high quality fresh milk from our dairy cows. We also grow a few extra veges for them too. These pigs are free range, and that’s in a paddock to boot, for their whole life! We do not put rings in their noses, but instead rotate them through the farm. We like to say,” These pigs sure do have the good life!” Each time a sow has a litter we are blessed with 10 or so little piglets, fun for the whole family indeed.
Berkshire pigs are a heritage breed that were prominent amongst the pig breeds brought into New Zealand by European settlers, arriving at least as early as 1846. They were bred by crossing British pigs with Chinese stock introduced into Britain in the 1700s. The high quality of meat is attributed to their good fat to lean meat ratio. They have been called the Wagyu of pigs. All we can say is, “That bacon sure does taste good, and you can’t buy it like that in the supermarkets! Berkshire Pigs are known as the Lady’s Pig, because of their gentle nature and good temperament. We often find ourselves in the paddock with our pigs giving them a good ol’ scratch and they generally flop on their side hoping it never stops.
We are currently free ranging approximately 65 Brown Shaver hens in a mobile Good 2 Go Hen House. The Chickens are supplying us with regular nutritious and tasty eggs, which we then sell through Waipawa Wholefoods. The hen house is on a trailer and is simply moved onto fresh pasture behind the quad bike every few days. We got the inspiration for these “Good 2 Go” houses from Joel Salatin, who has made the idea popular at his own Polyface Farms in America, where they are a critical component in his soil management as well as a highly productive egg enterprise.
The theory behind these portable houses is that farmers can mimic nature, where birds will follow herds of grazing cattle seeking out valuable protein sources. The cows essentially “mow” the field ahead of the hens, making it easier for the hens to get to the good stuff near the ground. The hens then dig through the cow dung to pull out any bugs or larvae, simultaneously spreading the dung around the pasture. This both cleanses and fertilises the soil, as well as provides nutrient-rich morsels for the hens own nourishment. The hens also re-fertilise the field with their droppings. It’s better for the birds, better for producing quality eggs and means having to provide less feed for the birds when they’re getting many of their nutrients from the pasture they free range upon.
Please refer to the Good 2 Go hen houses for more technical specifications and for any questions please contact email@example.com.
We are milking about 20 dairy cows each day for the families on the farm and our Berkshire Pigs. The pigs love the raw milk and it is a wonderful boost for their nutrition. We have a mix of Jersey’s and Friesians, most of whom wouldn’t last long in your average commercial shed, but they have become an extension of The Farm Family; Ramona, Claudia, Roberta, Deirdre, Molly, Uno, Nellie, Tina…and then there is Greg the Sheep. Greg is convinced he’s one of the herd and accompanies the girls into the shed each day!