1 September 2000

Family trip to New Zealand was a lifetimes experience

Farm manager Wilf Simmonds felt the need for farming

inspiration and took his wife and children off to New

Zealand for a year to find it. He sent this letter to Farmlife

LAST summer I came to the conclusion that I needed new ideas to carry on farming. I was working as a farm manger for Buckle Farms Hadleigh, Suffolk, so I asked Mr Buckle if I could take a year off to tour New Zealand.

He agreed and in December 1999 we flew into Auckland, New Zealand. My wife Sally and boys Max (7) and Alfie (4) joined me in the big adventure. We bought a camper van and used this as a base while we have been travelling and working. We do school work with the boys each day, but they must learn as much again as we travel – its been a great experience for them both.

The main thing I wanted to find out was how New Zealand farmers are getting on without subsidies. Most of our travelling so far has been in the South Island and here farming seems to have just got itself straight. This last year has been fairly kind to them. The machinery dealers say that things look brighter now but most farmers are using profit to reduce loans and not to buy machinery. They hope that another couple of years like the last one will set farming back on the right track.

I worked the harvest with a contractor baling with a Hesston 4900 and a JCB 155-65 Fastrac. I enjoyed working for the contractor as it took me to a large number of farms, where I could talk to the farmers and look at their different farming systems.

Farmers on the whole seem happy, they work hard and play hard and that seems to keep them focused. Most farms Ive been on are owned and run by one man with contractor or neighbours to help out at busy times, many also have a second job. The fact that they make time for leisure activities would be the one thing that they have got that we havent. I think it is this attitude that has carried them through the difficult transition from government support to none.

&#42 Traditional feel

The farming also has a more traditional feel about it. I suppose this is because it is not subsidy led, most of the farms are mixed on the lowlands, very few are all arable. Being mixed allows grass as part of the rotation, fodder crops are grown followed by spring cereals.

Weve very much enjoyed our trip to New Zealand and have learned a lot. The people are great and the country has everything from volcanoes, boiling mud pools and geysers to glaciers and fjords. The beaches are great, very often you have miles of sand and beautiful clear blue seas all to yourself.

If you are feeling bogged down with work I highly recommend doing a trip of this type, I hope that I will be able to take the best of the NZ attitude back to Suffolk and carry on farming as efficiently as possible. If you are tempted our 1984 Toyota camper is available in October!

simmonsnz@hotmail.com

Suckler cows grazing on cliffs above Purakanui Bay in the Catlins.