It’s the good life on The Good Farm

“We’re very fortunate to have had Michaela’s parents providing us with this chance to develop and add value to the existing operation on this site. Since then, we have all worked hard, each with our own particular skills to add to the mix, to create a fully working, viable and valuable lifestyle business for our family and community”

Loren Gibbs, Co-Owner of The Good Farm

Four years ago, former chef Loren Gibbs with wife Michaela joined forces with Michaela’s parents, Daryl and Larisa Anderson, and started on a new adventure in life – swapping the stress and relentless pace that comes with the world of food preparation and hospitality for making a life from an existing raw milk and market gardening business on 10 hectares of land on the back road between Welcome Bay and Te Puke, in the Bay of Plenty.

The proposition from Daryl and Larisa was simple; if they bought the property would Loren and Michaela manage it on a daily basis? Seizing the opportunity Loren and Michaela agreed, thus beginning a new chapter in their working and family life.

“We’re very fortunate to have had Michaela’s parents providing us with this chance to develop and add value to the existing operation on this site. Since then, we have all worked hard, each with our own particular skills to add to the mix, to create a fully working, viable and valuable lifestyle business for our family and community,” says Loren.

The Good Farm shop is now a popular destination for a growing number of customers who seek their daily ration of MPI-registered raw milk and/or freshly picked spray-free seasonal vegetables. To meet demand for raw milk all year round, 16 cows, of a total herd of up to 30 are milked daily, with two or three calves produced every month to keep the milk supply constant.

Loren says the success of the business is very much around the fact that the four owners each contribute to its operation. While Loren is busy with the day-to-day care of the cows and tending to the spray-free/organic market garden, Michaela takes care of the farm shop, social media and customer relations.

Daryl, a former Waikato dairy farmer, is the visionary, master fix-it and developer of ideas man whilst Larisa looks after the administration and accounts. “One of the great things about The Good Farm is that our children see their grandparents every day as we live on the same site. They’re involved in their lives and it’s just a neat way for our family to be.”

The cows are mated to a Hereford bull with all calves produced a dairy/beef cross. Calves are raised until weaning time at 12 weeks and then Loren finds happy new homes for them. “They are quiet animals, used to be handled and many people on lifestyle blocks are keen to have them.”

Raw Milk production and selling rules require that the milk can only stay available for sale in the vat for 36 hours. To enable this turnaround to happen, The Good Farm has two 250lt vats which are constantly swapped in and out.

Customers come along, with their empty milk bottles and operate a coin vending machine to access the milk. It’s a system that works very well and is growing in popularity as more people are drawn to the benefits they feel comes from drinking raw milk.

Because so much of their new life was new to Loren and Michaela, the business partners decided the best thing to do would be to have regular reviews of how the business was going, particularly in the first couple of years. “It really took us a couple of months at the start to nut out our own brand and the first thing we did was started to build on what already existed.”

Concentrating on bringing milk supply into some sort of consistent production level and working away at developing vege garden production systems that were manageable began to bring results. Fixing fluctuations in milk volume was achieved by growing the herd number and mating all year whilst working out which vegetables to grow where and when meant the shop could be well stocked.

Asked what he’s currently focusing on, Loren says managing pasture and encouraging a mix of cover to reduce the invasive impact of Kikuyu is a priority. “We’re concentrating on fertilisng the pasture to encourage a range of pasture species. Having Kikuyu does have its place, especially when things dry out, but it’s something we have to manage and control as best we can.”

As suppliers of the only raw milk in the Bay of Plenty, Loren is confident business will continue to grow. Customers come from far and wide to buy the milk on a first come, first served basis.

For Loren and Michaela, the daily routine that comes with taking care of a productive piece of land is an absolute pleasure; providing them not only with a means of income but also a lifestyle for their family.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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