Farmers Fast Five: John McCaskey

Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to John McCaskey : Pioneer of the Wine Industry, Farmers Advocate, Entrepreneur, and Proud Farmer.

1….How long have you been farming?

Since I was big enough to hold a bottle and feed a lamb—say 1939! My infant years were filled with helping feed pigs & chooks progressing to milking the house cow and churning butter after school! By age 10 I was going to be a farmer! I passed all agriculture subjects for School Cert 1954

2 What sort of farming were you involved in?

I started farming on my own account in 1968 having spent some time in various jobs in Australia—which incidentally led me to start the first bulk harvesting run in NZ. Which continued for some 30 years between Greneys Rd and Greta Valley. Starting with dryland sheep and cropping it soon became apparent that on light land the limiting factor was water so in 1971 I built a small dam and harvested water from the Weka Creek into storage based on Australia experience—again! (Badgery’s Creek farm/Sydney University) and grew trial crops of maize, sorghum & sudax , plus field grown tomatoes—which yielded 33 tonnes off 2acres thus proving the immense value of having water available. This led to the planting of a vineyard in 1981 (Aussie again?) and as the saying goes—the rest is history. I’d also reached 3000su, sheep & beef, 1000 works lambs and 100 bales of wool---then “Rogernomics”---end of story!

3. What makes you proud to be a farmer?

Meeting the challenge of dealing with livestock and nature and knowing that the outcome benefits the nation. There is great satisfaction in that, regardless of outcome--you've done your best. " This country was built by righteous rebels/families--NOT by corporatists or elitists & sure as hell not by politicians--if I can keep that spirit--then count me in!"

4.What do you love about your job as a farmer?

We’re dealing with nature in all her moods and seasons, lambing and calving brought the excitement and hopes of a new year, sadly often blighted by drought. Working with animals keeps you close to reality, especially those dogs who were not only unpaid workers but highly valued friends and companions, something which few of our urban cousins could appreciate.

5. What advice would you give to the next generation of farmers

I' ve seen the number of “family farms” drop from 120,000 sheep & beef, 60,000 dairy in 1964 to less than 20,000 –in both cases! To me that equates half a million less on the land who had/grew up with the intergenerational knowledge that has been the backbone of farming throughout the ages. This is not just farming’s loss, it is the countries loss. I have been deeply saddened to witness worse in Denmark but a recent trip through Canada & USA was enough to almost bring me to tears. Where have all the families gone that once occupied and worked the land?—their steading lies in ruins—hundreds of them added to which are “ghost-towns/villages” that were once vibrant communities. The explanation is simple—being conservative by nature they voted for the corporate sponsored Republican/Conservative/National parties and voted themselves off the land into oblivion. so PLEASE –you have a moral duty to the land & your family, to think much further that a 3 year, opportunist politician! The last 33 year experiment has been a disaster—for NZ !

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