Thursday, April 25, 2024

The sky’s the limit

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Intergenerational knowledge has long been a sort of secret ingredient to success in sheep and beef farming in New Zealand. Though that component was vital in the early years of Tom and Sarah Wells farming careers they are also using their passion, drive and determination to forge their own brand of sustainably farmed products. Andrew Stewart reports.
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Both Tom and Sarah Wells used to work in completely non farm careers. 

Sarah was a television journalist covering breaking news in a time poor, mentally draining role. 

“I grew up mustering with my father on horseback on the station and I wanted to be a shepherd right through school but somehow lost my way,” she said.

“But there was always a pull back towards the farm.”

Tom was a policeman who transferred to Taihape after meeting Sarah but soon realised he was drawn more to the outdoor lifestyle of farming than to being a small town cop. 

“On my days off from the police I found I was always working on the farm and really enjoyed it and it wasn’t a hard decision to leave the police and start shepherding. 

“It’s a huge privilege to farm and have this opportunity,” he said. 

Tom started in his new profession working as a shepherd. He learned the intricacies of stock work and sheep and beef farming working alongside Sarah’s father John. That tutelage and guidance proved invaluable for a man cutting his teeth in an industry he knew little about.

Though the learning curve was steep Tom also found that because he had so little experience he also had no preconceptions that might have formed had he been raised in a farming family. 

The Moawhango community east of Taihape, where they now farm, is a farming community steeped in heritage. 

Horses still play a major part in mustering on Tom’s and Sarah’s Taihape farm.

Setting up a new brand takes a considerable amount of time but the farming operation has to come first.

“Our primary focus is always on our stock and making the best decisions for the farm. 

“We also put a huge amount of value on relationships and treating others well, which we think is important for any business starting out. We hope to continue collaborating with others and see Hinterland as a platform for other food producers keen on sharing their stories through the brand,” she said.

With a young family as well, it is hard to see how the Wells find enough hours in the day to manage all that is going on in their lives. 

But their passion for their products is a great motivator and they firmly believe in what the future holds for sustainably farmed produce. 

“We are working hard on developing the Hinterland Range and getting more innovative products on the shelf. There’s huge potential for red meat products but our farm is not just about producing meat. 

“We have a huge amount of native bush and have our own hives and reasonable grade manuka honey available,” she said.

Though they know there are many challenges ahead they are optimistic about the future.

“Lots of farmers are doing amazing things and we want to help get that message out there and share those stories. 

“We are also excited about wool and what farms can do environmentally. 

“We feel so privileged we’ve been given the opportunity to farm this land that’s been special to so many people. 

“My great great grandfather settled here in the 1880s and for the family to still be here more than 100 years later speaks volumes of those who have gone before us. We want to do our bit to ensure future generations can have the same opportunities we have had,” she said.

With that sort of drive and enthusiasm it is safe to say this farming couple from vastly different backgrounds are creating their own heritage in the hinterland of Taihape to complement those who went before them.

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