Lisa Kendall’s two sisters say she’s crazy.
But both of them have already expressed their strong interest in getting involved in the sheep-milking farm with attached cheese-making and cafe facilities the 26-year-old is planning in the near future.
She grew up at Kingseat, south of Auckland, where her parents had a lifestyle block.
“I always loved animals and being outside,” Kendall said.
She attended Strathallan College, doing well academically and studying ballet until she was 16.
“I thought at one stage I might be a doctor but then decided to follow my passion and see if farming was for me,” she said.
So it was off to Lincoln University to complete an agriculture diploma.
She worked on a South Canterbury sheep, beef and cropping farm that also ran dairy grazers for a while.
But then she decided to travel, volunteering for four months at an orphanage in Thailand run by a New Zealand woman. It was on the Burmese border and attracted members of the Karen minority group, persecuted in their homeland. She was involved in looking after babies as well as teaching older children, building and property development.
From there she went to Cambodia then Britain and Europe before returning home in 2014. University called her back again, this time to do a farm management diploma.
“I realised after my diploma that I could use my brain a bit more and give myself more of a challenge,” she said.
Studying days over she found work in the kiwifruit industry in Bay of Plenty as a member of a harvest audit team.
“But I realised I didn’t want a full-time inside job,” she said.
So she returned to her parents who had moved to a lifestyle block at Karaka, closer to the city, to help her mother who in quick succession had a hip replacement then a shoulder injury when her dressage horse kicked her.
“There weren’t agricultural jobs about and I wanted something flexible,” Kendall said.
So the answer was to set up her own business, Nurture Farming, making herself available for farm work around the area.
“I advertised in the local paper and it worked well.
“In a couple of months I had plenty of work. I do a little bit of everything.”
That can range from fencing to shearing small mobs of sheep on lifestyle blocks or helping out on larger farms with tasks such as repairs and maintenance or tractor work. She also offers a farm-sitting service when people are away from their properties for extended periods and does consulting work for lifestyle block owners.
“The consulting can be anything from questions about rearing lambs to suggestions on how to set up their fences and yards to animal health plans,” she said.
Some of the work is regular and other landowners just call on her for the one job they need done but usually there’s a steady flow of work coming in.
There’s also plenty to be done cutting out privet and woolly nightshade. Helping out is her friend Toby Greenhalgh, a fellow member of the Franklin Young Farmers Club, and originally from Britain. He’s not from a farming family but has an agriculture diploma and has been working on a Pokeno farm milking 1000 cows at peak and carrying a similar number of dry stock. Next he’ll move to a 200-cow Waiuku dairy farm.
Kendall is also running 40 in-lamb East Friesian ewes that will be milked.
“People say that East Friesians are jumpy but I’m very hands-on with them,” she said.
“I have a few too many pets.”
Her dog Katy, who she’s had for a year after her former farmer owner didn’t want her any more, goes everywhere with her. As well as a named kennel at the back of the house Kendall’s built her a home away from home kennel at her parents’ Coromandel bach. Then there are the two Saanen kids, Pinky Pop and Bin Bob, which were taken in from local goat milk farmers.
Kendall has yards on the block where she will milk her sheep initially but she’s now looking to the next step which will be options for a sheep milking trailer. She’s working on the theory that will allow her to run stock on a number of smaller block she might be able to lease locally.
“I’d love to move into farm ownership,” she said.
Sheep milking appeals to her because of the proximity and size of the Auckland market where many consumers are waiting to be enticed by the taste of something different produced locally.
“I’d like to build up stock numbers and set up a cafe as well,” she said.
This is where her sisters come in.
The eldest, Rachel, is a trained high school teacher who has been travelling and would love to train as a cheese maker to work in-house. And the youngest, Emily, who is completing her PhD in theoretical physics after studying here as well as in London and Canada, would like to brew the best beer to help wash it down.