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Scottish immigrants start enduring farming legacy

Scottish immigrants start enduring farming legacy
Mark and Alix Taylor with family at the Century Farm and Station awards.

Most farms are given a Century Farms Award when they reach 100 years. Mark and Alix Taylor’s farm has already clocked up many more making the award extra special. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve been here for 150 years,” says Alix.

The farm first came into the family’s possession when David and Elizabeth Strachan from Blairgowrie, Scotland sailed to New Zealand in 1852. They had five children on arrival and one month later a sixth was born marking the start of a large family.

They settled in Wanganui, where David, a carpenter by trade, worked for Taylor & Watt, an early general store trading with the Maori. The first application for land was in 1854 and several blocks were purchased to a total of 600 acres.

Later, more was purchased increasing to 1095 acres. The family then moved to Lornty Farm, named after their home area in Scotland. During this time more children were arriving increasing the family total to 15.

Stores were from Wanganui and were carted on foot over seven miles until a boat-cumsledge was purchased and could be towed over the swampy ground by bullocks. They farmed Lornty until David’s death in 1905 when half the farm was divided off and farmed by a son.

The farm was looked after by family members until Wallace, son of Alexander (David’s eldest) came home from the WW1, married Muriel Rice in 1923 and took over the farm.

Their daughter Locheen married James Lilburn in 1956 and when Wallace died in 1973 they took ownership of the farm.

Alix is their daughter and along with husband Mark took Lornty over in 2002. They have since doubled the size of the farm to its present 400ha.

While sheep and cattle have always been farmed on the land, and in Wallace’s time barley cash crops were grown on the top flat areas of the hills, Alix and Mark have focused on dairy farming and producing beef.

“There was no money in sheep,” says Alix matter of factly explaining their decision to cut sheep from the business. Today they run 200 Angus cattle and milk 300 dairy cows. The cows are milked through a 32 aside herringbone shed.

They got into dairy as Open Country Dairy came to the region and Alix says it has been good to supply to.

It’s also helped them to diversify their business and benefit from the steady pay cheque, which is one reason they are currently growing this aspect of their operation. She says the two facets of the business work in well together. The couple runs the entire operation with the assistance of two part time workers.

Alix says they have a philosophy of constant improvement, particularly gorse and pest control. Peacocks are a bugbear and always keen to hone in on new crops so keeping their numbers down is essential.

They grow crops on 12ha and rotate turnips as summer feed and annual ryegrass for early spring. Life is busy as the business also involves a nursery called Calix Nursery, which is a passion for Alix.

It grows 1ha of outdoor trees and shrubs for the general public and customers such as district councils, garden centres and landscape businesses.

The trees also come in handy for riparian planting projects on their own farm. She also has a cut flower business and grows hanging baskets for the main street of Wanganui.

The couple have two children, Kate, 25, who is currently working as a category manager for a large company, and Angus, 20, who is completing his OE driving tractors for a contractor in the UK.

Succession planning will be on their mind in the future to ensure that the farm stays in the family for many more generations to come.

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