Monday, March 4, 2024

Egg operation hatches Manawatū couple’s land plans 

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Skipping the middleman and taking local produce direct to customers is paying off for Scott and Emma Jimmieson.
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When Manawatū dairy farmer Scott Jimmieson decided the traditional path to farm ownership was out of the picture, he looked to chicken farming as a way of getting on the land on his own account.  

Now, six years on, he and his wife Emma have grown the operation from the corner of his parents’ leased deer shed to 40,000 hens across eight sheds providing free range eggs to customers all the way to Wellington’s CBD. 

The eggs are sold through their company, Local Food NZ, which was initially formed solely as a means of selling their eggs – but now, Scott said, is part of their mission to “be a part of something bigger than ourselves, connecting fresh local food with customers”. 

Alongside the eggs, produce from other local farmers and growers, such as asparagus, honey and olive oil, are now sold through the  Local Food NZ platform.

To rewind back to the beginning of the Local Food NZ story, the initial idea for eggs began while Scott was on his OE in the United Kingdom, discovering what he thought was a great opportunity. 

“I was dairy farming here and then I decided to take two years and go live in London, and so while I was over there I noticed there were a lot of free range eggs in local Tesco and supermarkets,” Scott said. 

“And by living in places like the UK you tend to get exposed to what you could call the future, as we often follow along behind the UK and US in some way or form, so I got thinking if I went home then that wouldn’t be a bad thing to get into.  

“When I arrived back I bought 500 chickens, and continued working on a dairy farm, putting all the income from that job into the business, slowly building up to around 2000 birds, and eventually got enough funds to build the first big shed, which is 5000 birds.

While on his OE in the UK, Scott noticed the popularity of free range eggs, something that had yet to catch on at the time back home in NZ. 

In the beginning, Scott said, it was tough balancing the early mornings of dairy farming with trying to start a business – one of the main reasons for eventually choosing to change careers. 

“I was working on this dairy farm in Linton, and I was getting up at 3.45 and driving 45 minutes to Linton to milk cows, and then sometimes I would come back during the day and do work and then back in the afternoon for milking, then back at night to carry on working.” 

“At that time, Dad was really good because he was doing a lot of the work with the eggs during the day while I was off earning income and plugging it back into the business.  

“So we decided something had to change there, as although it was a great short-term solution for growing the business it wasn’t a sustainable long-term solution.”

This was when a job came up in town selling cars for McVerry Crawford, which would allow Scott to hit two birds with one stone, starting his working day at 8am and learning valuable sales and negotiating skills. “That was something that got me into the business world of how things work behind the scenes, giving me that experience with customer service, negotiating, money, finance and what not. 

“And so all the skills I learnt there for four years I just portrayed back into the egg industry.” 

As the egg business grew, Scott decided to quit his job in town and go all in with Local Food NZ, taking on more staff for various different roles and expanding the business. 

Once the business was viable, Scott and Emma also began purchasing the 35 hectare lease-block from Scott’s parents, and further down the track bought into a much larger operation in Himatangi with seven sheds on 30ha, with another 45ha on a lease agreement. 

They now both lead a team of 15, with around six full-time staff and the remaining part time, including Scott’s father, who handles most of the deliveries. 

Scott said the process is as efficient as possible, with orders right through to the deliveries being automated using technology, meaning a customer can often place an order and have their produce delivered overnight. 

The Jimmieson’s hope Local Food NZ can help bridge the gap between food producers and consumers.

“What it means for the consumer is that they can get eggs fresher, so instead of them being a week old by the time they go to the shop and are bought, they are getting them the following day, or two days after. 

“So we’re just using technology that is available to everyone to speed up that whole process.  

“And also one of our drawcards is that not only are we local, but we’re competitively priced, because direct to consumer is the best way to capture the margin.” 

Both Scott and Emma were brought up in rural NZ – much of the reason that they both want to help bridge the gap between consumers and how food is produced. 

Emma said understanding where and how food is produced was something she took for granted while growing up on her family’s Taumarunui sheep and beef farm, and so she hopes Local Food NZ can do good in this space. 

“Growing up on a sheep and beef farm, I thought everyone must know farmers, and everyone must understand how food is made, but you then realise a lot of people don’t, which is quite sad,” Emma said.

“That’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just what’s happened over time. But what we’ve found with Local Food NZ is that all the people we’re involved with absolutely love being able to understand who is making their food.  

“So they’re getting to know who we are, and what’s happening on the farm, and we’ve really enjoyed that aspect.” 

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