Friday, December 8, 2023

Farming still pulls heartstrings

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Tourists and commuter traffic along with proximity to Auckland keep Rob and Rachel Cashmore aware of the scrutiny farming is under. Rob’s not backward at sticking up for farmers but is also conscious of his role in protecting the land and nature while farming commercially. Glenys Christian reports.
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The power and speed of international communication was clearly shown to sheep and beef farmers Rob and Rachel Cashmore when tourists uploaded an image that made it to Holland and back to them within a day.

The tourists were driving past the couple’s Orere Point farm when a mob of sheep on the road close to the house made for a holiday photo with the caption “Not a traffic jam you’d expect this close to Auckland”.

Within hours there was a comment online that the photo looked as though it was taken outside their place. It was forwarded to Rob’s brother, Ben, who lives in Melbourne, then on to them.

That brought clearly into perspective what they say are the advantages as well as disadvantages of farming just 50 minutes from the centre of the supercity. Not only do they see the Sky tower when they’re on top of the 600 metre hills to which the 1100 hectare farm rises, they can also see north as far as the Hen and Chicken Islands sitting off Mangawhai in lower Northland as well as Port Waikato on the west coast. 

But with no cellphone coverage they rely on a booster from their broadband connection for service at their house.

“We see the positives of the soil type and the diversification options,” Rob Cashmore said.

“And farming still pulls on the heartstrings.

“People still like the idea of living on a lifestyle block. And the argument is swinging back to looking after farming when people see the degradation of some urban areas.”

He was brought up on the farm settled by Cashmores in the 1860s. His father, Bill, owns the property now but as his local government commitments grew, first as Franklin ward councillor and now as deputy mayor of Auckland, Rob has gradually assumed more of the management reins on the farm. 

He went home for a year after finishing secondary school then set off to Lincoln University to study for a farm management diploma. That led to working on a number of properties in Canterbury and Southland, finding that he liked the South Island lifestyle. He also had a six-month stint overseas on an Angus Association scholarship that saw him based with one large United States stud farm that has properties in Nebraska, Ohio and Iowa as well as large semen collection centre in Montana.

By 2009 he was ready to return home so worked for wages for his father.

“In 2012 I asked to be upgraded to livestock manager and that role has morphed into being a full manager,” he said.

He and Rachel met at the end of 2010 in Auckland while out with friends. 

She’s originally from Hunterville, growing up on a 1400ha sheep and beef property. She enrolled at Otago University after school, studying health science. 

But she soon realised agriculture was where her heart lay so switched to a science degree at Massey University, which she completed with a double major in agriculture and animal science. She worked first for The Vetservice Group then as a dairy consultant for Shepherd Agriculture, out of Dannevirke. 

Next she moved to Bayer NZ taking up a role as territory manager, initially in the north East Coast/eastern Bay of Plenty area, which then transitioned to the entire East Coast. In 2011 her territory became even larger as she moved into a position selling equine and over-the-counter products in the area from Kaitaia to Te Kuiti for a year. 

The following year a marketing brand manager’s role came up in Auckland and she has been there ever since. She’ll return to the company’s animal health division in Manukau in a month after maternity leave for the birth of Catherine (Kate), almost one. The couple also have an older son, George, 3.

“Everyone’s jobs are just two degrees of separation between them and agriculture,” she said.

“ I think there are a lot of people who don’t quite understand that. We all financially benefit and rely on agriculture in some way.”

“Aucklanders now believe anything farming is dairy farming based on what’s covered in the media,” he said.

That was demonstrated to them recently when a school group visited the farm with the pupils equipped with pre-organised questions from their teacher. Even after being on the farm, seeing the livestock and machinery and sitting in the woolshed they asked about how many cows they had and what time was milking, he said.

“I had to put them on to Rachel. I’ve never put cups on a cow in my life.”

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