Succession planning key at Elmhurst

Succession planning key at Elmhurst
Hamish, Fliss Cox, Guy, Peter and Gretchen Redfern with Shane Jones at the NZ Century Farm and Station awards.

Open and transparent succession planning is key to ensuring the Redfern family’s farm, Elmhurst, continues to thrive in the hands of future generations.
Located in Darfield, the 283ha property was bought by John Olave Redfern in 1898 after accumulating funds through long hard days spent as a contracting ploughman.
Driving teams of Clydesdale horses pulling double and three-furrow ploughs, men like John Redfern were known as teamsters and would contract themselves and their horses to farmers.
The farm was initially known as Ferndale and John’s passion was fattening sheep as well as growing oats, wheat, turnips and rape.
When John died in 1937, his only son Charles, known as Courtney, purchased the farm, buying his three sisters out, and renamed the farm Elmhurst.
Courtney’s son Peter, who along with his wife Gretchen now own the property, says that when Courtney took over the farm he had to buy everything he needed to farm, at a clearing sale of the farms property.
Avoiding that scenario has certainly driven Peter and Gretchen’s own approach to succession planning.
“We have open communication with all our children and they have ben involved in all succession meetings so everyone knows what the intentions are to try and achieve succession,” explains Peter.
Reflecting fondly on his father and his childhood years on the farm Peter says his father always referred back to the difficulties of the depression years of the 1930’s.
“Everyone was heads down and bums up through that era and by todays standards they had a very conservative approach to farming.
When they came out of the depression on the right side they continued being very cautious.” Peter also remembers his father referring to endless numbers of swaggers coming up the drive looking for casual work to find a roof over their head and a hot meal.
“I recall him telling me that one of those guys, Bert Pascoe, came looking for work and dad offered him employment for two weeks – he stayed for 22 years.”
The youngest of five sons, Peter enjoyed a very close relationship with his father and went into partnership with him on Elmhurst in 1976.
By that time, two of his brothers had gone farming on neighbouring properties and half of Elmhurst had been calved off to add to those farms. At about the same time Peter married Gretchen, a city girl and trained registered nurse. “She took to the farm like a duck to water, says Peter.
“My father had a lot of time for Gretchen. She was someone who wound up the sleeves and got on with it. Those old school nurses, like most farmers wives, they have to cope with all sorts of situations and they do.”
Following his father’s death, Peter and Gretchen carried on the family legacy farming Elmhurst, eventually buying back land from Peter’s older brothers and bringing the farm back to its original 283ha.
“We started off farming sheep, beef, traditional arable crops and providing dairy support but with the advent of irrigation in 1998, our practices changed resulting in an intensive arable farm.”
Peter and Gretchen’s three children, Guy, Felicity and Hamish are all farming in their own right with their partners.
“Hamish is perhaps more like his great-grandfather,” says Peter. “He has a keen interest in fattening lambs as well as continuing the arable side of the farming operation.”
Hamish and his wife Janet have now taken over the running of the farm and the intention is for them to eventually take the farm over through succession planning.
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