Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand
4500 merinos on 11.331 hectares
Glenlee Station is a huge property with lots of snowy peaks, a swift river and wild rabbits, hares, goats and that hairy, black, scary looking wild pig. All of these animals will become dinner for the Hamilton-family now and then, before Rob, his wife Sharon and the kids Lochy (12) and Tayla (9) will head out into the garden for a game of cricket. The part owner, Rob Hamilton, is the oldest son of five children who grew up on Glenlee, where his mother Philippa also resides. They have a total of nine working dogs, because “a sheep outrun a person every time”, Rob says. He needs the help, but the kids, who are home schooled by their mother, work a lot as well, and have actually built their own flock of motherless lambs, counting 30 at the moment. “I think it´s very good for their upbringing to learn different practical skills like shearing, fencing and mechanical skills”, Rob says, exited about passing down the knowledge.
Robs grandfather, also named Rob, was an airline pilot for the former NZ-company Safe Air. He was carrying freight and livestock, like horses and sheep between farms on the north and south island before a ferry was adapted. His son, Ian, loved the mountains and being outdoors, so he became the first person in the Hamilton family to farm merinos when he bought the extensive Glenlee in 1965. The size of the farm “keeps me exercised”, Rob says, but he is quick to mention that only one third of the property is grassing areas for the sheep. The rest is forest, rock and mountains ranging from 500 to 2000 meters.
Rob is also manufacturing and exporting timber. He is a busy farmer by day, talking to clients in Asia by night. “I do a bit of marketing and networking as well”, he says. Rob likes to interact with other people, being a “bit isolated here up in the mountains”. A couple of times per year, when he needs to access about 1000 of the animals who are based on the backside of his mountain range, he will be especially remote. To bring them home Rob has to walk so far into the steep wilderness that he has to stay a night or two in one of his four basic huts without electricity.