Growing up on the Waikato dairy farm that has been in the family for over 100 years, Sophia Hunt never intended a farming career of her own.
The youngest of three girls, one of Sophia’s earliest memories was feeding marshmallows to the calves and promptly suffering a bout of diarrhea after not washing her hands.
The passion for the land, the animals and a connection with nature is something that has slowly developed over Sophia’s 24 years of life.
From boarding school in Auckland, university in Canterbury, time spent in Western Australia and a period working in customer service for Mainfreight, Sophia has come full circle to the place she feels most relaxed and at home – the family farm.
Attending St Cuthberts College, Sophia and her sister, Ali, both elected the horticulture course at a time when Sophia says it was not the most popular subject to take.
“For me it really spurred an interest and with a few garden plots on the farm I could grow a few things – though I could never keep the garden going beyond summer. But it was a way to get involved with the farm. I then went to Lincoln University and studied Agriculture and Commerce or three and half years.”
Since leaving school Sophia’s eldest sister Margie studied food engineering and is currently working on a thesis using milk supplied by the family farm, researching how a new food product could be developed, Sophia says that she and Margie would like to work together creating a food product utilising the farm’s milk to help diversify the family’s farming operation and remove some of the volatility through international sales – all part of the 5-10 year master plan.
Returning to the family’s Waikato farm in February this year, Sophia’s passion for farming comes from caring for what she’s doing – looking after the animals the best she can and looking for ways to make farming a little bit easier.
Enrolled in an off-farm animal nutrition course run by DPS (Dairy Production Services) Sophie is committed to developing her ability to care for the farm’s animals.
“There is a lot of logic to farming and a sense of purpose. Everyone has to eat and you’re producing a product that you’re putting a lot of care and passion into. There is science to making silage and you want to make a product that the animals enjoy eating.”
Owned by parents Vernon and Rosalie, the 135ha fl at to rolling Te Awamutu farm is home to 350 Holstein Friesian cows – big girls each producing 600kgMS.
“We’re a grass based platform but we do feed the cows maize silage, a few supplements and a little bit of in-shed feeding,” says Sophia.
Working at entry level on the farm, Sophia’s main jobs are to look after the dry stock on the run-off a few kilometres down the road, bring the second herd in for morning and afternoon milking and help out with day-to-day on-farm activities, ably assisted by her three faithful dogs Mandy, Boss and Gaz.
Even with two staff looking after the key operational side of the farm, Sophia says her father still maintains a busy on-farm schedule.
“It’s a competition now to wake up before dad does and get out of the house. I like to be out of the house by 5.30am or just a little bit earlier.”
Sophia’s great grandfather originally purchased the farm for his then 16-year-old son in 1916.
Twelve years later, the son, Sophie’s great-grandfather, built the house that Sophia grew up in.
Constructed from concrete block, each block was hand made after milking time – it took a long time.
But they are stories that connect successive generations to the land.
Recently Sophia and her grandmother, Cecilé, attended the Century Farms Awards in Lawrence – the family deciding that the Hunt clan be represented by the best looking two in the family.
Sophia says that she had a great time and now looks forward to uplifting the family’s 150-year medal when she is in her 70’s.
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