Friday, December 8, 2023

‘Our attitude determines our altitude’

Neal Wallace
Grant McNaughton’s path to farm ownership did not follow the most orthodox route, but it worked. Neal Wallace visits the McNaughtons on The Dasher Station in North Otago.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Students affectionately called him Mawsy.

To Grant McNaughton, Waitaki Boys High School agriculture teacher Brent Maw was the reason he stayed at school to Year 13 which, unbeknown to him at the time, set up a career path that led to farm ownership.

McNaughton says Mawsy was the type of teacher who related to students, offered encouragement and had their respect.

“I’d say this for a lot of boys who went through Waitaki Boys High School, Mawsy was a really nice guy who knew the balance required at high school,” he said.

“He believed in me but he had a real connection with all the students.” 

Today, McNaughton and wife Charlotte own The Dasher Station, a 6300ha high country pastoral lease property at Kauru Hill on the eastern end of the Kakanui Range, the border between North Otago and Central Otago.

The path he and Charlotte took to farm ownership was successful, but certainly varied.

McNaughton confesses to not being the most enthusiastic of scholars at high school, but encouraged by Mawsy he stayed the course, earning a B Bursary.

The son of North Otago sheep and beef farmers, a farming career was in the mix for McNaughton, but not a given until his last year, even though agriculture was his strongest subject.

Armed with confidence in his academic ability from gaining a B Bursary, McNaughton went to Lincoln University where he studied commerce and agriculture for three years.

The decision to continue studying was in part motivated by less than flattering comments from his school rector, who questioned his application to study and saying he needed a change in attitude to be successful.

“It was the best decision I could have made to go to Lincoln,” he said.

“The rector’s comments certainly motivated me to succeed.”

He relished university life and interactions with like-minded people from around the country. His academic scores improved but importantly, he discovered a love for the primary sector.

Young cattle on paddock country on The Dasher Station.

Managing the environment is a crucial issue for McNaughton, both on The Dasher and for the farming industry.

“It isn’t about lifting the bar but lifting the floor,” he said.

“If we can raise the floor and identify the laggards and help them lift their performance, it will be beneficial for NZ Incorporated.”

The headwaters for the Kauru River are on The Dasher and the family swim in it over summer and McNaughton is proud of the high water quality.

“If everybody makes small incremental gains, we’ll all be better off,” he said.

The other priority for Grant and Charlotte is to ensure their family have an enjoyable, happy farming upbringing.

“We feel honoured that we can own a farm,” he said.

“It’s not an easy occupation, but we really enjoy farming and want to infuse that enjoyment in our family.”

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