Thursday, December 7, 2023

Eagerly grabbing their chances

Neal Wallace
Blair and Jane Smith freely admit to having their share of good fortune as they embark on their farming careers but that doesn’t mean they are resting on their laurels. Neal Wallace reports.
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It might be a cliche that business success is all about opportunities but that is the reality for North Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith.

In 2008 as they were in the process of taking over Jane’s family farm neighbours Bruce and Fay McNab invited them to look over their hill property.

Blair says they initially had no idea why they got the invitation but the farm was for sale and the McNabs viewed them as potential owners.

“We basically had an interview but we didn’t know it at the time,” Blair says.

The McNabs were not going to sell their 1100ha farm in the Kakanui foothills to just anyone.

When the Smiths received a second invitation they started to wonder if the McNabs were selling, only to be presented with documents that included a valuation, chattels and details such as the volume of silage to be left in the event of a sale. 

The offer and opportunity were too good to ignore even though Blair was still running a Southland transport company in which he was a shareholder and Jane was still working in rural banking.

Jane says there were multiple synergies, other than the proximity, why the deal was a great fit. The McNabs had a passion for livestock genetics as did the Smiths and being at higher altitude provide some insurance against summer dry though seasons are slightly shorter.

The deal was done.

“It wasn’t easy but it came together,” Jane said.

Looking for opportunities and grasping those that fit is a common theme of the Smiths careers.

At the same time, they leased the Newhaven block from Jane’s parents, David and Robyn Ruddenklau, part of the attraction was to continue the genetic improvement of the Newhaven Perendale stud.

Jack Price was always going to be a farmer and his choice of school has ensured that.

In his final year at Waitaki Boys High School Price has found himself working on Blair and Jane Smith’s Five Forks farm through the Gateway programme that allows students to work for up to half the year as part of their NCEA level three education.

The experience also counts towards his practical requirements for enrollment at Lincoln University, where he will go next year to study for a agriculture and farm management diplomas.

Tom Laurenson, 17, from Rolleston works for Conrad and Tania Sim at Mt Dasher Station under the same scheme and will also head to Lincoln next year.

Price, 17, from Southbridge in Canterbury, is not from a farm but has worked on them during school holidays.

At Waitaki he experienced the primary sector by working on the school’s 17ha property, Fraser Farm, as part of its agriculture course. Fraser Farm runs about 110 ewes.

“We are running our school farm just like any large-scale unit,” he says.

During lambing boys are up early to do the lambing beat before school and are required to help with tailing, shearing and crutching.

Retired local farmers and old boys Murray Isbister, David Ruddenklau and Ray Fox provide guidance.

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