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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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

Great days with Dr Christine Jones

This week South Otago had a special visitor with acclaimed Australian soil scientist Dr Christine Jones here for two events. On Tuesday nearly 200 farmers attended a Beef and Lamb New Zealand hosted events at Clinton where Dr Jones spoke on regenerative farming practices. Dr David Stevens of New Zealand research institute AgResearch also contributed some local research findings.

Dr Christine Jones presentation Clinton (photo H.Bielski)

Farmers from all across the southern South Island attended.

Some of the crowd at Clinton

This was followed by a field trip to Hamish and Amy Bielski’s property between Balclutha and Clinton. Hamish has been experimenting with various pasture cropping and diverse multi species pastures, with the hope of reducing chemical and fertiliser inputs, restoring land function and increasing on farm profitability.

The crowd explore a winter feed paddock consisting of Kale, Hairy Vetch, Fava Bean, Ryecorn, Tillage Radish, Crimson Clover, Persian Clover and Sunflower
Close up of winter crop. Yield estimate 9t DM/Ha.



Wheat direct drilled into a timothy based pasture.

On Thursday a more in depth day with Christine was held in Balclutha. This allowed the sell out crowd of 50 to delve deeper into some of the processes and more discussion on the grazing aspects of regenerative farming. Those that had not done had a look at Hamish’s various pasture and crop trials afterwards.

Balclutha day with Christine “making life from light”
Multi species pasture – Timothy, Cocksfoot, Brome’s, Lucerne, Plantain, Chicory, Clovers + more

Organic Farm Systems – Autumn Update

It has been a busy season for Organic Farm systems, primarily with a major organic dairy project underway. There has also been many good field days this year, and I am particularly looking forward to catching up with Dr Christine Jones at a nearby field day at the start of May, and working with Dr Graham Shepherd later this year.

Lecture with Dr Graham Shepherd

Trial work with seaweed at Stevenson’s has been interesting with VSA’s showing a marked increase in worm populations over a three-year period, even with a significant intervening dry period.

Early trial of George’s mixed brassica
Visual Soil Assessment with George – 63 worms!!

It has also been enjoyable to meet the many visitors to New Zealand this year including US veterinarian Dr Paul Dettloff and Dan Mosgaller of US organic dairy co-op Organic Valley.

Field day with Dr Paul Dettloff at Clearwater’s farm, Geraldine.

It was also good to get away for a break to Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore. Even on holiday you still taking note of, ask and learn about different agricultural and ecological systems. Once a farmer, always a farmer. Thanks to all my clients for your support this year, keep up the good work!

Rice fields being replanted after a major flood a few month prior, near Hoi An, Vietnam. The flood waters reached half way up the power pole (about 10ft), or 1st floor of the pink house.
Mixed agricultural systems on a small Island on the Thu Bon River, Vietnam (not my bike…)
Weren’t meant to be heading up the road that way!
Traditional mat weaving, Vietnam


You can have your cake (steak) and eat it! Allan Savory – TedX

Ever heard of the saying “Can’t have your Cake and Eat it”. Allan Savory shows we can have our cake (or more fittingly Steak) and eat it on the subject of climate change and livestock.  If you have never heard of Allan Savory, his ideas and work are well worth looking into. A excellent example of how we could all make a difference, in a win-win future. There are many New Zealand farmers applying this management successfully. From 2013 – 22 mins.



Organic day with US Vet

Learn transition and animal health tips from an expert USA organic vet – March 2018

Dr Paul Dettloff is the most senior and experienced organic vet in the United States. For the last 25 years he has worked for Organic Valley Dairies, the largest organic dairy cooperative in the world, with 2300 farms. He is on the point of retiring and has brought hundreds of dairy farms onto the Organic Valley truck. His specialised knowledge and approachable style of teaching is unmatched for practical value to farmers. He will teach establishing animal health and production from the soil up, ways to treat health issues and demonstrate how to assess animal health and production from cow vital signs and hair coat. Valuable for both dairy and sheep/beef farmers.

1 March – Fonterra Organic Dairy Conference for suppliers, by invitation only. New Plymouth
5 March – ODPG Workshop, Paterson Farm, 1931 State Highway 27, Patetonga, Waikato 10am to 4pm. $100pp, ODPG members $75. Teas and lunch provided.
8 March – Southern Organics Group Workshop, James Cummings Wing Bld. Gore, Southland 10am to 4pm. $50 pp for non-members, free for SOG members. Teas provided. BYO Lunch.
13 March – ODPG Workshop, Clearview Dairy, 793 Peel Forest Road, Geraldine, Canterbury 10am to 4pm. $100pp, ODPG members $75. Teas and lunch provided.

Registration required by one week in advance. Please email to save your space. Bring cash or a cheque on the day.

Visit and for details