Century award proves a career highlight

Century award proves a career highlight
Anita Erskine (second from right) with family members at he NZ Century Farm and Station awards in Lawrence

After receiving a Century Farm Award in 2017, Anita Erskine of Westwood Farm is urging anyone who is eligible for a Century Farm Award to apply.The Erskine family’s history on Westwood Farm dates back to the late 1800s. The family originated from County Down, Ireland, arriving in New Zealand in the early 1800s before settling in West Waiau in 1885.
The land in West Waiau at the time was only able to be leased so it was not until 1893 that Hugh Erskine and his wife Agnes were able to purchase Westwood, which then consisted of 315 acres of land. They were the first pioneering family in the Papatotara district.
Today, Anita and her siblings, Quinton and Eric, are the fourth generation to farm Westwood which totals 995 acres freehold and 128 acres leased.The farm is a mix of Romney white sheep, coloured sheep, commercial purebred Shorthorns and Westwood Stud Shorthorns.
It wasn’t until after their mother Janet passed away in 2009 from cancer that the family decided to apply for a Century Farm Award. “We wanted a project for Dad to do so we encouraged him to get into it,” says Anita. Unfortunately, 18 months later, in 2011, their father David passed away from cancer as well leaving the application unfinished.
“None of us felt like doing it after that so we put it on the back burner,” Anita explains. But after reading the stories of other families that had received their awards they decided to knuckle down and get it done and they’re so glad they did.
“Yes, it was a bit of a battle to get all the information but it is well worth it and it’s amazing what you learn on the journey,” Anita says.It was the little, light-hearted stories they learned along the way that, unless they had applied for Century Farms, they would have never known.
They learned that their grandmother, Clinton, who worked as a midwife, had to put her midwifery skills to the test when the men had gone into town and one of the ewes was having trouble lambing. Agnes quickly realised that birthing lambs and birthing humans were two completely different things but she still managed to help the ewe successfully deliver.
Anita also found it interesting to learn that Hugh and Agnes’ relationship survived two years and eight months on opposite sides of the world until Agnes was able to get to New Zealand. When she arrived, the couple were married within a week. “Relationships nowadays struggle two days without staying in contact,” Anita laughs, “let alone over two years.”

Century award proves a career highlight
PHOTOS: Winter feeding some of the Westwood shorthorns. Ewes on swedes and coloured lambs.

After gathering all the information they needed for their application they were also able to prove that they had been on the land well before it was purchased, thanks to old newspapers’ reporting on leasing of land areas.
Anita says before they found those documents there were seven years that no one could account for. They also found the original DOC lease signed 22 July 1915.
The icing on the cake for the whole experience was the award’s night itself. Held in Lawrence in Central Otago, Anita says there were 32 other families receiving awards from all over the country and she cannot speak more highly of how the evening went.
“They had someone from the committee sitting at each table which was brilliant being able to talk to them. They had it so well laid out, it was so well organised and ran so smoothly.”Anita is now setting her sights on their 150 year celebration. It may be another 18 years away but the experience has been so memorable she can’t wait to do it again.
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