The Family Farm vision has four parts:
- To produce healthy & nutrient rich food as part of a resilient & profitable model of regenerative agriculture;
- To balance relationships between nature and production agriculture as part of ecosystem restoration, including a focus on soil health, carbon sequestration and planting native and food producing trees;
- To utilise the farm and Eco Lodge as a source of education, accommodation and inspiration, allowing people to connect back to nature, food and farming; and
- To be open and share the farm’s resources, building a community model that shows what is possible when we work cooperatively with each other and nature.
The Family Farm team continues to grow; at its heart are Greg, Rachel, George, Bill & Emma, Pipi (the dog) & Otis (the cat).
Rachel was born and raised on farms locally, whereas Greg grew up farming near Culverden in the South Island. His parents shifted to Mangarara in 1991 where he soon joined them, meeting Rachel and happily settling on this beautiful piece of land.
Together Greg & Rachel, with the help of many, have farmed at Mangarara for 21 years. About 15 years ago they began to piece together the connections between how they were farming, the quality of food they produced, the impacts of conventional farming practises on our environment, & also the well-being of themselves and their community.
This journey has included attending and hosting many workshops and retreats exploring new ways of living and farming, including Greg attending a pivotal retreat in Findhorn, Scotland. Changes continue at pace and have led to a huge number of new relationships and partnerships that transform that have changed the way they see and act in the world.
For more on the Hart Family’s journey towards a regeneration at Mangarara, you can check out:
- Country Calendar (2017)
- Happen Films – Fighting climate change with regenerative agriculture (2017)
- Our News & Events page
Sam grew up in Lower Hutt, with strong family ties to Central Hawke’s Bay. He has a degree in Geography and prior to farming has been involved in climate change and rural water quality with the voluntary sector and central government.
Sam was awarded a 2016 Nuffield Farming Scholarship which took him around the world for seven months exploring regenerative farming and community innovation. This experience has grown a commitment to pursuing the development of regenerative farming in New Zealand. He currently spreads his time looking after animals, trees, websites, and on-farm development, science & innovation projects.
Anna & James (Coming soon!)
Teruhito, Yukiko, Harichika & Hirotaka (Coming soon!)
The land currently known as Mangarara Station has been transformed over the last 200-700 years.
Prior to human settlement this land would have been a mix of mature native forests and wetlands, teeming with birds and insects. In the mid 1800s the land was cleared by European settlers (one of the first in Hawke’s Bay) and was part of the 7000 acre Elms Hill Station. The existing drains throughout the Mangarara flats were dug by hand in the late 1870s and extended in 1914-1918. Elms Hill Station was subdivided and the newly named Mangarara Station was purchased by the Tiffen family who farmed for many generations until selling to Greg’s parents in 1990.
Greg and Rachel have transitioned the farm away from a traditional sheep station (running approximately 3000 ewes) to a diverse and integrated farm that seeks to balance ecosystem restoration and the production of healthy, nutritious food.
Some of the major changes include;
- A partnership with Air New Zealand in 2008 which led to the planting of 85,000 native trees adjacent to a small remnant of virgin native forest.
- Planting native and exotic trees around farm dams (small lakes) and in shelter belts to protect soils, provide shade & shelter, sequester carbon and enhance biodiversity.
- Building a small dairy shed, introducing Berkshire pigs and developing a composting system.
- Building the Mangarara Eco Lodge (commissioned in 2015) to accommodate, educate and inspire through generous hosting that includes farm tours, workshops & events.
- Moving to Holistic Management and Planned Grazing – a management system designed to maximise ecosystem, animal and human well-being through grazing
more mature pastures on longer, planned rotations.
- Partnering with Million Metres Streams and successfully raising over $30,000 to plant the riparian margin of Horseshoe Lake, a 35 hectare lake and wetland that borders the farm and Eco Lodge.
- Launching our ‘Meat Boxes’ designed to help connect people back to healthy food and farming, while providing a stable financial platform to enable continued ecosystem restoration and innovation of our regenerative farming practises.
We now raise:
- Approximately 1000 ewes and anywhere between 500-1500 lambs depending on the time of year;
- 20-40 dairy cows throughout the year providing milk for 60-100 Berkshire pigs, plus a little for ourselves!
- Approximately 150 Angus heifers and 100-200 other cattle that we own or contract graze.
Following Holistic Management principles, our grazing and fertiliser management approach aims to improve soil health, sequester carbon in our soils, and promote healthy plants and animals. We are developing a soil carbon project to better measure the impact of our management on soil carbon levels, and hope that this will inform a larger project throughout New Zealand.
Furthering our history of planting lots of trees (105,000 and counting) we hope to:
- Continue extending our native reforestation towards the back of the farm;
- Develop a ‘forest of food’ in the paddock adjacent to the Eco Lodge, funding by ‘Friend the Farm’ donations with eventual produce available free as ‘Pick Your Own’ for all donors and friends;
- Develop and expand silvopasture systems that integrate trees and pasture in a way that allows us to grow better quality pasture, create lower stress environments for our animals through increased shade and shelter, and produce a mix of fruit, nuts, timber and animal fodder.
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.
The Lodge is an amazing place to stay with amazing views across the lake. The Lodge is spacious with all the mod cons but very warm and welcoming. It really felt like our own little bit of paradise. Greg and Rachel were very friendly and happy to show us round the farm and conservation area. There’s plenty for the whole family to do. Great indoor and outdoor entertainment areas – we will be returning with a group of friends!
Leah – Wwoofer
Thank you Hart family so much for the great week. I learnt so much and was touched by your kindness.
A Hawke's Bay Farm
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