Success through ‘grit and perseverance’

Success through ‘grit and perseverance’
Wattle Park’s Peter and Stephanie McCullough with daughters Victoria and Georgina

Steeped in history enriched by six generations of McCullough’s, Wattle Park looks set to uphold its farming family’s heritage with future generations ready to take up the mantle of custodians of the land.
Sitting comfortably on the South Canterbury Plains in the small farming area of Waitohi, six kilometres west of Temuka, Wattle Park reputedly took its name from a stand of wattle trees in a paddock.
While the trees were later flattened by a snowstorm, the farm has thrived for over 150 years in the McCullough name. The original part of the farm was settled by Samuel McCullough, 42 years of age at the time.
Hailing from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, Samuel voyaged on the Captain Cook through to the antipodes in 1863 – possibly working his passage – leaving behind his wife Sarah and their four children.
Travelling on the Eastern Empire, Sarah and their four children arrived in Lyttleton eighteen months later.
The first 100 acres were purchased for the princely sum of 350 pounds in 1866, with another 100 acres purchased a year later for 150 pounds. Samuel went on to make further increases to his land holding and had a total of seven children with Sarah.
The original house on the property was a two-storey house made of white pine, which was replaced due to dry rot in the1920s with a double brick house, still used by Samuel and Sarah’s descendants.
Sarah died in 1908, while Samuel died the following year aged 84. Upon Samuel’s death, only four of the seven children had survived – such were the rigors of life in those hard times.
Samuel’s obituary in the Temuka Leader stated that he was ‘one of the sturdy type of old settlers who never spared himself and won his success by grit and perseverance’.
Following on from Samuel, succeeding McCullough generations have included George, Gilbert, George and now the 21s century McCullough – Peter, Samuel’s Great Great Grandson.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Canterbury University, Peter went straight onto the farm in 1980 due to his father’s ill health. Today, Peter farms the property, which stands at 323 hectares, with his wife Stephanie.
Reflecting on the changes that have occurred over the years Peter says the land area and management has changed over the years with the advent of motorised vehicles.
“Stock is no longer walked to the local sale yards and the land is farmed more intensively. The farm now runs sheep, cattle and deer but still grows the same winterfeed crops. Horses were used for many years with stables down at the riverbed block to limit the amount of time spent on travelling when working in those paddocks.”
Peter says emphasis is still very much on the health of the soil and animals, and he’s trying to follow a more biological approach to farming having gone away from super phosphate in the ‘90’s.
“More than anything, it’s about the type of fertiliser used – we use a guano phosphate – keep the calcium levels up and balance the potassiums and sulphurs. I believe it has made a real difference to the soil structure, pasture yield and stock health.”
These days, Peter and Stephanie refer to themselves as ‘Natural Resource Managers’ – a more accurate reflection of what they do.
Feeling proud to be the fifth generation to farm the land, loving the variety of work and enjoying being his own boss, Peter’s only little regret is that he didn’t get to do his OE after finishing university.
With their own five children, twins Charlotte and Gabrielle (32), Victoria (28), Georgina (27) and James (Jock) 23, it is highly probable the McCullough bloodline will continue to take care of the land first cut from the scrub and bush by their pioneering ancestor with grit and perseverance.
Peter and Stephanie may still get to have that Overseas Experience – perhaps visiting Samuel and Sarah’s ancestral home in Country Antrim.
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