Saturday, March 2, 2024

Opportunity knocks twice for Waikato farmer

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Sometimes all it takes is the right opportunity at the right time to land you on the right path.
As well as working on the farm, Waikato farmer Tracey Simpson also owns and operates Homeopathic Farm Support supplying natural remedies for animals. She studied homeopathy in 2008.
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This article was among Farmers Weekly’s most read in 2022.

A Waikato farmer who loves to be busy had to turn down a business opportunity in homeopathy when it came her way because the timing wasn’t right. However, when the opportunity presented itself for the second time, she just could not say no.

Tracey Simpson and husband Murray are sharemilkers on three Tirau farms, milking 900 cows and supplying iwi-owned dairy company Miraka.

Getting out on the farm, sorting out the kids or working in her own business, Simpson is at her best when juggling life.

“I think the real nuts and bolts is that I like having a purpose,” she says. “There’s purpose in being a mum and a farmer. So when the opportunity came up to buy Homeopathic Farm Services, I had to jump at it. After learning about homeopathy and seeing what it can do for myself, I became passionate about it, and now I get to share it with others.”

She has been involved in the world of homeopathy for over a decade. She gained the necessary qualifications, and trialled different homeopathic approaches to her own farming practices. Now, she gets to help other farms and animal lovers make gains through the use of her products.

Born and bred on a dairy farm in the Waikato, she left school at the age of 17 to go farming. A few years in, she switched paths and went into a career as a veterinary nurse.

“I’ve always loved the medical side of farming, which is probably what drew me to be a vet nurse. I met my husband Murray during this time and got my boots back on the ground when we took on our first sharemilking gig together in Tirau. We were a young couple and broke, but it was exciting.”
Unbeknown to them, the herd they bought to kickstart their farming career had bad facial eczema issues, and their first year was full of heartache in trying to get things under control.

“It was a nightmare. At the end of our first year of sharemilking, I went to see a homeopath on my sister-in-law’s recommendation. I was having trouble with my periods and wanted to get it sorted. We ended up chatting about the farm, and I explained what was going on.”

Homeopathy plays a big role in their farm’s animal health strategy, particularly their calf-rearing policy.

She was given her first vial of Chelidonium to take home and give to the cows. Chelidonium supports the liver and assists the body’s immune system in the function of the liver. 

“After nothing else was working, this made such a difference. It gave their livers a clean-out, and after three weeks, they seemed to be doing much better. That’s the wonderful thing about animals, they never lie, and the results spoke for themselves.”

This sparked an interest in homeopathy and its many uses for humans and animals. Eventually, she was inspired to pursue the study of homeopathy in 2008. She says that it changed her whole perspective on farming, which helps her in battling the attitudes she often comes across in the homeopathy industry.

“I think what I’ve come to see and realise through using it on my own farms is that it’s not a one-or-the-other thing. Sometimes what you need is a dose of penicillin to get the best outcome for that animal, and it’s utilising the best of both worlds for the greater good of your stock. 

“You have to be open-minded and realise there are other modalities that can be beneficial for human and animal care. Sometimes it’s the best option, and sometimes it doesn’t touch the sides.”

During these years, she was juggling study, farming and starting a family. At one point the couple were sharemilking 1200 cows across four farms for Te Raparahi Lands Trust and even buying into a small farm with the trust for a few years. 

“I remember sitting at the kitchen table until the wee hours of the morning to get my study done because I was busy out on the farm and with the kids during the day. It sounds crazy when I think back on it, but I just did it. It was all things I enjoyed, and the farm and the homeopathy study worked really well together.”

When the payout dropped, they had to make some hard decisions and ended up scaling back to three farms and 900 cows. Homeopathy plays a big role in their farms’ animal health strategy, particularly their calf-rearing policy.

Eventually, she linked up with Tineke Verkade, a homeopath who owned Homeopathic Farm Support, who she’d met previously at one of Verkade’s seminars. Simpson worked for Verkade for a few years before the first opportunity popped up for her to take on the business.

“At the time, I was just too busy. Between the farms, which I was fully involved in every aspect of,  and the kids, it was just unrealistic even for me.”

Then in 2018, Verkade approached her about the business being for sale again, and this time Simpson said yes.

“It made sense, but it was a scary step to take. We thought about it for a while, did our research, talked to our accountants, the whole due diligence. In the end it was my brother-in-law who said, ‘If homeopathy is your thing, then just do it.’ That was a little lightbulb moment.”

When the opportunity to buy the business was first presented to her, Tracey turned it down as she was too busy juggling the farm with family and study. From left, son Ethan, Tracey with Mavis the cat, son Conrad and dog Betty, daughter Greta and Murray Simpson.

The business, which was originally based in Hamilton, aims to assist and support farmers in improving their animals’ health in a gentle, safe, effective and environmentally friendly manner. Simpson and her team do this through sales of their range of BioGro-certified organic products and by delivering seminars, discussions and talks with farmers to educate them about the uses and benefits of homeopathy.

The ins and outs of purchasing a business are extensive, but despite their busy farm and home life, she loved having the chance to work on something that was just hers to grow and nurture. Adding to her CV, she’s also recently finished up her diploma in homeopathy (animal health). But her biggest challenge has been putting herself out there and talking about her products.

“Its incredibly hard to step into a sales role. Often farmers can be challenging to deal with, especially with this sort of business. I think that’s where being a farmer myself really helps, I can understand their concerns and perspectives. I’ve spoken at a few seminars, and it gets a bit easier each time.”

She says she has a fabulous team behind her, including another homeopath and an administrator. They help round out the skills the business needs to run and grow.

Despite the growing interest in animal homeopathy, especially in the small-animal world, one of her biggest challenges sits with farm animals. She recalls many occasions when homeopathy has been referred to as “witchy stuff”.

“We often get people come to us as a last resort, and that’s okay. People don’t know what they don’t know; the same goes for homeopathy. It creates some interesting conversations, which I love. I always tend to come back to one point: how do you get to the 21st century and still be so narrow-minded? There are so many other modalities that can be beneficial to human and animal care. Homeopathy is simply another option or tool in the tool kit.”

When it comes to the logistics of farming and operating a business, she jokes she’d love it to run like a finely tuned engine, but often she feels like she’s flying by the seat of her pants.

“The first three years it was a whirlwind. Travelling between the farm and the office isn’t always easy depending on the time of year, but I think what helps most is that I often don’t feel like I’m ‘working’. Be it on the farm or in the office, I enjoy what I do. It sounds cliché, but if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work sometimes.”

With a recent shift in premises to accommodate the growing business, she’s increasingly looking to the future and figuring out what that might look like for her business and her family. On the business front, she is hoping to hold more seminars and workshops to educate people about human and animal homeopathy. Simpson is keen to continue growing the small-animal side of her business and eventually be in a position to talk to and inspire up-and-coming homeopaths by sharing her own experiences.

“Whatever the future holds, family will be at the centre of it all. My husband and kids have been a huge support over these last few years, so ensuring we are always striving to achieve some form of balance in life is essential.”

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