Canterbury farming couple thrive on good teamwork, understanding
Problems shared are problems halved and that’s the beauty of farming couples; supporting each other through those not so good days and complementing each other’s skills and strengths.
For mid-Canterbury farming couple Nick and Natalie Dwyer, clear lines of communication and understanding each other’s perspective has been at the heart of good team work throughout their farming journey.
Adding to the family mix are the couple’s three young children – Maddie 7, Isobel 5 and Flynn 4 – all just old enough to start being a little useful on the farm with mum and dad.
The couple moved to Align’s 275-hectare/1050-cow property, ‘Longfield’, on SH1 halfway between Hind and Ealing at the start 2019/20 season.
Accepting the position of business manager, Nick and Natalie have overall responsibility for day-to-day operation of the farm including production; livestock, feed and pasture management; budgeting and people management.
Born and bred for the land, Nick loves producing good quality livestock, striving to improve his young stock year-on-year.
Improving soil and stock health through regenerative farming using diverse seed mixes is another thing that interests Nick.
“We want to get a better balance on the farm between people and the environment and I believe regenerative farm practices is a way to achieve that. I will be driving to introduce a trial in the next few years.”
While Nick is out and about on the farm on a daily basis overseeing his team of four full timers – helping in the shed when needed, making ongoing repairs and general farm management – Natalie’s focus is the behind the scenes work that make it all tick.
Taking the lead on the administration side of things Natalie closely involves Nick to ensure the two remain on the same page. Being there for each other is also part of the couple’s teamwork approach.
“Having that support system between the two of us in all aspects of running the farm is so important,” says Natalie.
“Farming’s not just a job where you turn up, go home and don’t think about it till the next morning. It can be hard for Nick to switch off and that’s one of the biggest hurdles to work through. It‘s hard when you’re on the farm all the time to step away and see the wider issues. Nick’s able to come home and download on me when he needs to – we help each other through those situations.”
The couple joke that while neither of them have ventured overseas, they refer to Nick’s OE when early in his farming career he swapped from dairy farming to stock manager on a heifer grazing and sheep farm – just for a change and to recharge.
Finding the elusive work/life balance can be challenging but Natalie says it is getting better for them. “School and preschool can be very helpful in enabling Nick and me to spend some time together – even if that is just having a lunch together in town.”
Looking ahead to the future, Nick and Natalie want to be in an equity position within farming in the next few years, while also growing their off-farm property investments.