Farmer Focus: Reflecting on family journey during 30th harvest

Today we started the harvest for 2024, our 30th as a family here at Valetta. Marrowfat peas are first up this year.

They were also our first crop in January 1995 as new entrants to the arable industry.

I recall putting the header of our Dominator 76 Combine on the ground to pick up the windrowed peas with lifters, and promptly bulldozing up a mound of dirt. Our learning curve was steep.

See also: Farmer Focus: Worries over dirty beet and loss of spud fungicide

About the author

David Clark
Farmer Focus writer
David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand’s south island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney breeding ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.
Read more articles by David Clark

My parents and I had bought the Valetta Estate in June the previous year.

Their background was in sheep and beef and, most recently, town supply (year-round) dairying in South Auckland.

My background was hill country shepherding and then establishing an agricultural contracting business. We never intended to become arable farmers or shift to the South Island.

We soon worked out that the run-down, dryland farm we had purchased running ewes and growing a paddock of barley and peas, while offering a significant increase in scale, would struggle to be viable without irrigation.

Development was required and would also give us the opportunity to increase the area of arable crops.

Our journey to where we are now, a fully irrigated arable farm focusing on seed production and lamb finishing, was under way.

As I harvested today in our Case 9250 combine with all its technology, I followed rows from our own windrower, driven by one of our sons, in a field irrigated by a centre pivot.

I watched while Jayne and our three teenage sons picked up pea straw bales and stacked them on a trailer towed by a tractor my father was driving.

The boys plan to sell the pea straw to gardeners as a small enterprise.

I reflected on a journey of a family entering the arable industry, in a new province, and growing a business and a family, and along with that, hopefully the next generation of food producers.

We each have our journey and, no matter where we each fit, we should celebrate families who are working together to produce food.

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