Blog

Autumn 2019 Update

Welcome to the first blog post for this year. It’s been a busy time in the south since xmas with many visitors to this part of the world.

Firstly we have had a visit from Ian Mitchell-Innes who spoke with a number of groups which hosted some field days. Ian is a knowledgeable speaker on holistic management from South Africa, and tours the world to pass on what he has learnt.

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Ian Mitchell-Innes drew a large crowd during a number of events in Otago. (Ian’s in the middle!)

Following hot on the heels of Ian we had a study tour group from the United States in the form of the Organic Valley/CROPP Co-operative. They toured both North and South Island looking at local organic farming practices and of course the scenery. I was lucky enough to be invited to be one of the host guides for the South Island section along with Bryan Clearwater of Clearwater Organics.

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Tour group arrives at Crawford’s dairy farm.

Tour members came from various parts of the U.S. and was made up of farmers and staff members of the Co-op.

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Allan Richardson discuss’ a multi-species crop with the US Tour Group.
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Quintin Hazelett introduces his property from a roadside viewpoint. (partly obscured, get out of the way Dan!)
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Tour group at Bluff, South Island.
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Foveaux Straight lives up to its fearsome reputation by putting on a billiard table flat day for the visitors. Next stop the South Pole.

Fresh Bluff oysters (a rare delicacy) and a cold beer finished of a typically warm and calm busy first day in Otago and Southland. Visits to both dairy and sheep and beef properties were supplemented with a fine organic dinner with the Southern Organic Group and Open Country organic suppliers and staff. The next day moved us through the lower south and onto Queenstown, after visiting the renown Riverton Environment Centre and food forest of Robert and Robyn Guyton.

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Brunch in a genuine Mongolian Yurt in the middle of the food forest.

We then progressed to Tim and Helen Gow’s property at Blackmount. Tim and Helen are some of New Zealand’s very early organic pioneers and have been long time practitioners of sabbatical fallowing, a very ancient practice for soil and pasture management.

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Tim speaking to tour group and Southern Organic Group members who provided 4×4 transport for the day.

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A slow bus trip finally took us to Queenstown where the group had dinner with a view. Thanks to everybody involved that helped this be a successful tour, and thank you for inviting me to be a part of this adventure.

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Queenstown from the top of the Gondola.

Last but not least saw a visit from friend and globally renown soil scientist Dr Christine Jones, who is on tour with AgriSea NZ. It was good to have a catch up and also to see so many new younger faces coming to learn about regenerative farming practice.

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Dr Christine Jones speaking to farmers at Hedgehope, Southland, hosted by AgriSea NZ.

If you’d like to keep up to date with what events are happening around the country or would like to learn more about organic and regenerative agriculture, drop me a line.

 

Climate change angry blog time…

One of my roles that I have had for a long time is as an executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group, the peak body for all organically certified pastoral farmers in New Zealand. Over the last few months we have sort to engage and offer service to the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Recently the group had a response from the office. This cast aspersions on the role of biological carbon sequestration in soil and what organic, biological and regenerative farming has to offer. This appears to be based on the advice of the Biological Emissions Reference Group, and some poor limited scientific data presented to us from the office of the commissioner.

Unfortunately, the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) is made up of the same usual industry bodies. They have no inherent interest either politically or financially in looking at any solutions other than those that benefit themselves. Research solutions they offer are complicated technological hard system responses when the underlying issues and the ecosystem processes that are involved are complex soft system management problems. You don’t find opportunities if you’re not looking for them…

Quiet simply what was offered to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is knowledge. The answers are there, the science has already been done. This is the future of the planet and our children’s futures at stake. The office said they are “looking into it more” and would have a full opinion on the subject next year. Sigh.

All we are seeing is a bunch of cronies, middle management bureaucrats and scientists trying to keep themselves employed and look for funding streams at our future expense.

The recently concluded UN climate talks in Poland stated the next two years are the most critical years within the decision-making process for the future of the planet. Time to get on with it then.

I challenge the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to prove that it understands what it’s meant to be doing and what’s at stake. For that matter the government in general. Do I really have to go to the top to get things done? Are you listening Prime Minister!

Me, angry? Yep.

Because I have four kids.

I’ll put my hand up for the way forward, to be a leader, and I’ll do it for free. Take the opportunity to engage and learn. I dare you too.

Merry Xmas everybody.

Xmas is coming…

Looking forward to Xmas? Well I hope the weather improves! The storm system that brought rain that flooded the Otago region (below) has also meant that some of the Ski fields are offering Skiing in November….White Xmas anyone?

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Clutha River at Balclutha (21st November)
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Waihola Yacht Club at (or in!!) Lake Waihola 21st November

This year has been a busy year with work, with the most recent major project, project managing the transition of a large dairy to certified organic for Craigmore Sustainables, recently coming to an end. Thanks to Che, Shaun and Mark at Craigmore HQ and Ed and the team at the Craigmore farming North Otago pod.

I recently also attended the Organic Exporters Association of New Zealand AGM in Ashburton. It was good to catch up with old friends and make some new acquaintances within the local organic industry. The local organic sector continues to grow strongly and will grow even more when we reach equivalence deals with our major overseas trading partners.

I’d like to take the chance before everybody gets crazy busy in December to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! See you all in the New Year.

Cheers, Glenn

 

ODPG Workshop – You Tube mini movie

The Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group is running a workshop at Greg and Rachel Hart’s property, Mangarara, this spring. Check out the You Tube mini movie at the bottom. The ODPG have more field days and workshops lined up this spring – check out their website for more info – http://www.organicpastoral.co.nz

Tools for On-Farm Assessment: Hawkes Bay

September 28th
Mangarara Family Farm
298 Mangarara Road
Otane, Hawkes Bay 4277 New Zealand

This workshop will run through the tools we currently have at our fingertips for on-farm assessment including:

  • Graham Shepherd’s new abbreviated VSA;
  • Holistic Grazing observation tools;
  • Brix, EC and Sap PH metres;
  • Plate meters;
  • Penetrometers;
  • Infiltration measurements;
  • and of course, the trusty spade (and whatever else we come up with).

In addition, we will look at recording methods to ensure that the information you generate from your observations can be viewed over time.

These will be interactive days where everyone will get a chance to get their hands dirty and tune up your observation skills.

More details to be announced

WORKSHOP DURATION: approx. 3 hours

Arrive at 9.30 a.m. for Morning Tea. The Workshop will begin at 10 a.m.

ODPG Members: FREE

Non-Members: $20-

 

TO REGISTER YOUR INTEREST, please contact the ODPG odpg22@gmail.com

You Tube mini movie on Greg and Rachel’s farm…..

Early Spring Break

After a busy winter preparing clients for the spring, I was able to take an early spring break before calving and lambing begins.

An opportunity came up to help a family friend return his charter/research yacht to New Zealand from the Kingdom of Tonga. This gave an opportunity to get a brief insite to some of the agricultural practices common to the pacific islands.

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Coming in to land on Tongatapu, the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga. The capital, Nuku’alofa is just appearing under the plane wing.

Most of the land on Tongatapu had been cultivated in some way for agricultural production, which contrasted to Vava’u, my final destination, which had very limited agricultural development. There was still some apparent damage to horticultural areas from the last cyclone (hurricane) season.

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Charter catamarans in the protected anchorage at Neiafu, Vava’u.

Surprisingly it appeared that most of the food on Vava’u was imported, with limited supplies of fresh foods, primarily fruits, available at the market each day. It took us four days to get enough eggs for the voyage to New Zealand, despite chickens being almost everywhere. Most of the local supermarkets appeared to be under ownership of foreigners, particularly Chinese, and most of the canned items came from China. A freighter/ferry came every two days loaded with goods for the local population of 8,000. Talking with staff and owners of local restaurants, most fresh ingredients were imported, much from New Zealand. Really good meals from those restaurants too!

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Under sail towards New Zealand

The trip back was quite eventful, with a passage that normally took this vessel 8-9 days on average on the 13 previous trips back to New Zealand taking 20 days. Whether this is a sign of the changing climate or not, but the normally clockwork regular South East trade winds failed to manifest, despite the forecast. Being a purpose built vessel many of the faculties that you get used to in life were of a more basic form compared to a modern cruising yacht i.e. limited entertainment, unable to charge phone (eek!). With only four of us on board fatigue from a lack of sleep became an issue, with constant interruption from slumber to make sail changes or other alterations making 2-3 hours a day normal.

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At the helm on a calmer day.

 

An unseasonable depression formed which led us to seek shelter at North Minerva Reef. There we were accompanied by Humpback whales migrating north to Tonga for calving. We could hear their singing through the hull of the boat at night (despite us all at first thinking it was one of the other crew snoring). It was magnificent to be able to be so close these beautiful animals, at one stage as we left the reef through the narrow channel a pair were just a few metres from us. In the crystal clear waters we watched these seemingly slow animals turn under the boat and swoop away like a pair of fighter jets. Just amazing!

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Sunset at North Minerva Reef.

Upon leaving again the forecast weather failed to give a good wind direction and we followed the Tropic of Capricorn to almost within site of New Caledonia before being able to progress slowly south towards the North Cape of New Zealand.  Accompanying us was an awkward and increasing cross swell which was up to 4 metres at one stage. The approaching landfall was heralded by the arrival of dolphin, albatross and sandflies! (these are small mosquito like insects for those luckily unfamiliar with them) We just managed to make it into the lee of the New Zealand coast before the next typical south westerly front and strong wind arrived. This gave us 25 knots on the beam and a rapid ride home to Opua in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Had we caught this weather change further out to sea it would have driven us back away from New Zealand for another week.

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Moored at the quarantine pier at Opua, New Zealand, after a long trip.

This was a testing adventure for me, having only sailed coastal and never offshore before, and to also be out of contact from family for so long. It is amazing even to me as someone who grew up before the internet or readily available mobile technologies on how much we rely on them to keep in contact with those that are dear to us or just with the world in general. Thanks to Klaus for having me on board – voyage of a lifetime (so far!)

Expected distance to be covered was about 1200 Nm – final actual distance not know but over 2200 NM. Ships/yachts seen in transit – 5 (2 container, 1 Squid fishing, 1 trawler, 1 yacht – South African flagged, heading to Fiji)

Days required to catch up on sleep and feel normal again – 7.

Animals seen – Turtle, Stingray, Squid, Black Tip Reef shark, Humpback whale, Orca, other unidentified whale, Flying fish, Common Dolphin, Albatross, Gannet, Tern and Sandfly.

I look forward to catching up with clients and meeting new friends in the world of regenerative agriculture and organic farming this season. Nice to be back on Terra Firma!

Cheers, Glenn