Working with nature a labour of love for farming couple
Andy Tatham, whose farm won the Greater Wellington Predator Free Farm Award at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards this year, says he has always had an interest in trees and the environment.
It is this passion that contributed to the win and has also pushed him and wife Jan to grow different species on their farm, particularly those that don’t need to be treated with chemicals post harvest.
The couple has various blocks totalling 20ha of macrocarpa, Tasmanian black wood and eucalyptus trees, all of which can be used above ground without the need for chemical treatment.
This year they are trialling a 1-2ha block of ground durable eucalyptus, which can be used below ground. Andy says organic vineyards, for example, are expressing interest in this type of wood for posts to support their grape vines.
Although prices and demand for these types of woods are not currently high Andy predicts that in five years’ time when they start to harvest that greater awareness of environmental issues could well push demand.
Their farm, Kaiwhata Farm, is located on the Wairarapa Coast near Masterton and Andy is the fifth generation of Tathams to farm the land with the original purchase of the farm in 1876.
The total property is 2240ha, with 1700ha effective, 90ha of pine trees and the rest in native bush and scrub.
The farm operates as a sheep and beef breeding and finishing unit and averages 17,000 stock units. Andy has been planting trees on the farm dating back to the 1980s.
He and Jan have planted 300400 poplar and willow poles each year for over 25 years. In 2012 they devised a Land Use Capability Plan for the farm with the assistance of the Greater Wellington Regional Council.
The plan looked indepth at the soil types on the property and proposed plantings for the following 40 years to achieve a carbon positive state, minimise erosion, retire nonproductive land, plant waterways and provide shade and shelter for stock.
Andy says a farm consultant was recently on the property and did two types of tests to determine whether the farm had already reached carbon neutral status and the consensus was that they had.
Andy says plantings will be ongoing though to continue to improve the land and their business. For example they have planted over 10kms of flax shelterbelts to protect ewes and lambs in exposed coastal areas.
While planting so many trees and plants has provided a good habitat for native birds it has also done the same for pests. This has led the Tathams to place greater focus on pest control over the past two years.
They have a bounty tally board in the staff room with cats, hares, stoats, weasels, ferrets and possums all fetching a price to encourage staff to eradicate them from the farm.
A wild cat is the most lucrative prize with $10 on its head. The Tathams are also utilising the expertise of a local retired DOC employee Joe Hansen to develop a pest control programme.
Their farm business is multifaceted and also includes a homestay business, run by Jan, and a honey business they operate in a joint venture with staff members Aaron and Nicola Tomlin.
Now in its third season Kaiwhata Honey sees hives placed all around the farm encouraging bees and is just another example of how the Tathams favour working with nature for best results.
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