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Family time off farm good for the soul

Kim Stewart Nov 11
Family time off farm good for the soul
PHOTOS: Manawatu crop farmers Dion and Gen Fleming. 7000 tonnes of maize is harvested annually .

Everybody needs time away from the farm gate to enjoy the fruits of their labour and recharge the batteries.

For Manawatu crop farmer Dion Fleming it was also an opportunity to spend valuable time touring Vietnam for a couple of weeks with eldest son, 13-year-old Levi.

“It’s something I’ve decided to do as each of our four children turn 13 – take them somewhere that isn’t westernized. Levi was taken back by how other people live and the thought that maybe life back home wasn’t quite so hard. We saw Vietnamese drying rice on the side of the road, which was quite interesting for a crop farmer.”

An overnight boat trip to Halong Bay followed by a trip up the Mekong Delta through bamboo in paddleboats were perhaps trip highlights for father and son.

Back home, Dion says it is important to get away from work and the phone.

“It’s always good for the sanity — there’s more to life than work, which can take a toll if you’re not keeping an eye on it, and getting away from time to time.”

Strong father and son relationships run in the family with Dion working in partnership with his father Russell on the family cropping business between Sanson and Foxton, as well as managing a contracting business owned by the wider family.

Dion and Russell each have 100 hectares planted in maize, with a few other family members around the area also having maize crops that contribute to Fleming Grain’s operation.

The seed of the business was started by Dion’s grandfather with a three wheel tractor back in the day, along with a silo for a little barley for the sheep.

Over the years the business has evolved into predominantly growing maize for use in the dairy industry.

In total 7000 tonne of maize is harvested annually for grain plus silage from a combination of family owned land, lease land and contract grower land, with Dion and Russell managing the family blocks and issuing an annual cheque.

Family time off farm good for the soul

The family owned contracting business, Fleming Bros, undertakes a wide array of agricultural work. An auger truck owned by Fleming Bros is loaded at the feed mill.

“We now have 16 silos with a total holding capacity of 12,000 tonne and we’re drying about 17,000 tonne of maize.

“A new grain dryer is currently on the water from North America, which will increase drying capacity hugely. We have our own feed mill and know the quality of our product because it’s all our own grain.”

Last year Dion and his wife, Gen, extended their operation to running 100 steers in part to demonstrate that the calf meal produced through the mill works and that the animals like it.

An auger truck purchased two years ago is one of Fleming Grain’s busiest trucks, delivering grain to dairy farms as far north as New Plymouth.

Explaining the busy operation, Dion says the family owned and operated contracting business owns a diverse array of agricultural equipment and undertakes every aspect of on farm machine work.

Dion recently accepted the mantle of Manawatu/Rangitikei Arable Chair, which was then extended to National Arable Vice Chair for Maize.

“I wanted to get involved with Feds, especially with the environmental issues. But I also felt that it would be another off-farm interest while still industry related where I could talk to other people around the country.”

Dion reckons that diversity of interests and family times on and beyond the farm gate are good for the soul.

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