The reformed newbie-family

The reformed newbie-family

Tarras Downs

James Smith, at Tarras Downs
Tarras, Central Otago, New Zealand
13.000 merinos on 1200 hectares

The Smith-family used to live in an area of New Zealand known for big factory-type farms, and a strong smell of cow. There, in Canterbury, James Smith began his career in the seed-business, producing and selling seeds to big pastoral companies. It was quite lucrative, but when he and his wife Angela thought about the future with their three outdoorsy kids, Sophie (9), Angus (7) and Clara (4), they longed for more space, an organic lifestyle and performing sustainable work. They sold out, moved down 300 kilometer and gained “playground” by an eightfold. Here the kids have no access to TVs or phones, but rather enjoy riding, motor biking, camping and hunting ducks around super healthy crop that almost look like a kiwi-green ocean on a breezy day.

Mr. Jolly, an old childfree farmer, was specifically searching for a family with young kids to take over both his property and animals. He wanted to see the continuation of the tiny six pupils school down the road, funded on the back of book royalties from the amazing story of Shrek who was a “huge merino who after six years without being shorn was found hiding in a cave in 2004”, says James, who’s family was chosen, and who has only been merino-farming for a year. “My grandfather had merinos, but I took a different route”. James thinks the fact that he is a “newbie” can have its advantages. “I am not tainted by preconceived conceptions”, James says. “I can often ask the question “why” we are doing things, to be able to make smart changes for one of the truest, purest quality products left in the world”.

The Smiths can grow lots of things if they want, like cherries and grapes, but they try not to exploit the earth “because we like the sustainable low input high outcome-type of farming”, James says. Still, 13.000 merinos can seem like a lot for 1200 hectares, but James says “our country is 70 percent flat, so the merinos are not living tightly at all”. Something that can’t really be said about the Smiths themselves, as their homestead is being built right now, on a spot that did not have neither a house, fences or walls when they moved in, “actually the merinos are grassing all the way up to our temporary door at the moment”, says James while laughing.

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