Friday, December 8, 2023

Seeking a place to call home

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Making time for family and friends is important to a Waikato farming family. Fritha Tagg reports.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Farm facts
Owner: Piako Middle Farm
Sharemilkers: Olin and Anna Greenan
Location: Morrinsville, Waikato
Farm size: 214ha, two dairy sheds
Cows: 650 Friesian and crossbred
Production: Target 1100kg MS/ha
Farm working expenses: $1.90



Having a young family has changed a Waikato farming couple’s entire outlook on life.

Olin and Anna Greenan who are 50-50 sharemilkers on a 650-cow farm at Morrinsville say achieving a good work-life balance has become even more important to them now they have sons Jack, 4, and Noah, 2.

“People talk about getting the work-life balance right. I have found it is never truer than when you have children,” Olin says. 

“Having the two boys has completely changed my outlook on life. I never knew it would be like this. It has been a bit like a light-bulb moment. As a parent you see things through a different set of eyes”

Anna says after the birth of each child Olin was reluctant to go back to work on the farm.

“The first time I had ever heard Olin say he didn’t want to go to work was after Jack was born. I guess you could say he was smitten with Jack and then later Noah.

“Having children does change your perception of things and you come to realise just how important family is and how important it is to strike a balance between the two.”

Juggling the demands of two small children, Anna’s job off the farm as well as the farm itself and everything that goes with it is no easy feat but the couple have a simple strategy to get that balance right – making the time for family time.

“I realise that six months of the year through calving and mating Olin is really busy on-farm and taking time off is difficult” Anna says.



“But even during those times we try to get away for a long weekend between calving and AI and Olin takes an afternoon off here and there when he can. We make a plan and go with it but always keeping in mind that the best laid plans might not always work out.”

They admit life on the farm can be hectic at times but it is still a great lifestyle and environment to raise a family.

“If we can’t get away off farm we do have other options that enable us to spend time together,” Anna says.

“Even when he is really busy the boys can see Olin when he comes home for breakfast or lunch, even if it is just a few minutes. Then during the day the boys and I can go over to the shed or out on the farm and see him.”

Anna says that even though life on the farm is 24/7, farming children probably get to spend more time with their parents than most.

“Taking the boys out on the farm they get to experience first-hand what dad does for a job.”

At the heart of striking that good work-life balance is having reliable and trustworthy staff and relief milkers. Without them time away would be all but impossible because cows still need to be milked and fed and there is always work that needs to be done. 

Jack likes to help his dad on the farm. Olin shows Jack how to fix the milking machine.

“He mimics what I do. He is very informed about farming because he sees it every day. He asks a thousand questions a day so is a mini encyclopaedia on farming. He loves putting on his Redbands to come with me to the store to get supplies.”

Looking ahead they have set a few more goals to achieve but ultimately the goal is farm ownership.

“As sharemilkers there is always an element of uncertainty. We experienced that in out last job,” Anna says.

“Having our own farm would give us stability, a place we can put down roots and call home but that is long term.”

Olin believes the land price is out of kilter so they are happy to stay put and take the time to consolidate their equity so they are in a good position to look at all options when it is time for their next move.

“Yes, we are looking for equity growth but it’s also important to have a place we can call home,” Olin says.

“It’s great having a strong connection to nature, being a custodian of the land and producing sustainable food. 

“It’s awesome having interesting and varied work and being able to see my children during the day.”


A farmer in the making

Olin and Anna Greenan are very safety conscious, which has rubbed off on their children.

Son Jack has become very knowledgeable about farm safety. Here is what he told us when asked about the dangers on farm.

Question: Are there dangerous places on the farm Jack?

Jack: The drains cause they’re full of water, trucks on the lanes when drivers can’t see.

Question: Is there anything else Jack? 

Jack: Big poo pit – not allowed to go there cause it’s full of cow poo. Motorbikes. You should wear a helmet and not go fast.

Question: What about the animals, are they dangerous? 

Jack: Bulls can kick you and stuff. No kids should go in there. Don’t go out by yourself with no adult. If you are in a paddock with the cows be careful.

Question: Is there anything else Jack? 

Jack “Machinery [contractors], don’t go out there when you’re by yourself cause no one can see kids in the lanes.”

Question: What are the good things about living on a farm, what do you really love doing?

Jack: I like washing the yard with Daddy. Feeding the calves. I like tagging with Daddy too. I even know how to write the numbers down of the cows calved.

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