Making hay on the Kapiti Coast
Making hay while the sun shines is what Kapiti Coast agricultural contractor Tom Richmond loves to do.
It gets in your blood—like you’re injected with diesel or a certain colour tractor when you’re born. “You either love it or you don’t,” says Tom. “Our main focus is hay and baleage.
“We’ve got a 10 tonne digger and do the odd driveway, building sites and little bit of forestry track maintenance. We also do a bit of truck transport.”
Trading as Richmond Contractors Te Horo Ltd, Tom’s been contracting for twenty years now, just shy of half his life.
He’s noticed a lot of changes over the years, particularly in the general profile of his typical customer base.
The rate of change has been accelerated over the last five years with the ongoing development of motorways and freeways making the commute from Wellington quicker and easier.
Reduced travel time to and from the city has meant that rural living has become an attractive alternative to the more expensive city living.
With demand comes supply and many larger farms in Te Horo have been broken up into lifestyle blocks.
The ratio between larger farm holdings and smaller lifestyle units 20 years ago might have been 60/40; whiles it’s now somewhere around 20/80.
With a different customer base comes challenges and something of a logistical nightmare for contractors, particularly when haymaking is very much at the mercy of unpredictable weather gods.
“Once upon a time it would have been normal to have spent all day mowing the grass and making hay for a single farmer.
“These days it’s nothing to attend to 13 – 20 10-acre blocks all on the same road and all on the same day,” explains Tom.
He says that in the early days when the lifestylers first moved in they had an expectation that you could just turn up.
“A lot of people just didn’t understand that they had to wait until we were in the area to make it viable for me and cost effective to them to have their grass processed.”
Tom explains that in today’s value he has to move about a million dollars worth of machinery by the time each process goes through the paddock just to get 40 bales of square baleage from a small holding.
He says that the investment in the gear is a critical success factor that ensures customers get a good job done efficiently and that they get the
product they want without the gear breaking down in the paddock and spilling oil everywhere.
“I appreciate people’s concern for their product. And I care that people get their product how they want it,” says Tom.
“Word of mouth within the lifestyle block community is the best way to retain customers.”