Where we ask a farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Mid Canterbury Proud Farmer David Clark.
1. How long have you been farming?
I grew up in the North Island and left school at the end of the 6th Form at a time when farming in New Zealand was very tough coming out of the '80s downturn. I was very fortunate to be employed by the Cashmore Family at Orere, SE of Auckland. It was during this time that my employers showed me by example that there was a future in farming if you worked hard and did things well, this set me on my course.
2. What sort of farming were you involved in?
My parents had been both Town Milk Dairy and Sheep and Beef Farmers and I was determined to make a start for myself so started contract fencing which then led into a wider range of Agricultural Contracting activities. In 1994 my parents sold their farm and I sold my contracting business and we pooled our resources and purchased a dryland sheep property at Valetta, inland Mid Canterbury. It soon became very clear that we needed to develop irrigation on the property in order to move to an intensive arable farm system. Initially we installed Roto-Rainers and funding this development necessitated a return to contracting which we did under a successful sub-contracting relationship until 2011 when it was decided that as my wife Jayne and I had three young boys it was no longer tenable for me to run a farm and contracting business with a phone and RT and it was time to return home fulltime. We invested the proceeds from the sale of the contracting into re-developing the irrigation with pivots to reduce our water use and nutrient loss and improve our yields. Here at Valetta we grow 400ha of grain, forage and vegetable seeds and forage crops, run 1,000 Romney Ewes and fatten 8-9,000 lambs annually.
3. What makes you proud to be a farmer?
I have always had a very deeply held belief that there is something very special about farming and producing safe, nutritious and sustainable food and something very special about he inter-generational ownership of land. My Great Grandfather jumped ship in Thames as an orphan in the 1870's and began trading with local Maori in the area from a small shop. He eventually bought a small farm and our family has farmed continuously ever since in various parts of New Zealand. Jayne and I have three boys, Sam, James and Charlie and I would hope that at least one of them my take up the opportunity to carry on as a farmer. We are only a caretaker of the land, and here for but a season. I strongly believe in the Maori concept of Turangawaewae, This is the place that we stand.
4. What do you love about your job as a farmer?
I love standing in a field of crop, just before dusk, as the shadows draw out and looking across the field, I love seeing a mob of well grown lambs standing proud in a field of grass, I love the technology that we now employ in every aspect of our business. I love the harvest, the camaraderie of the team working together to bring in the results of a year's work, I love the sharing of a meal in the field with the team, the machines and the lights around us. I love looking down a row of posts on a newly constructed fence. And I love that this is not about me, it is about the generation that has gone before me and the generation that may follow.
5. What advice would you give the next generation of farmers?
It is damn hard work if you want to succeed. In my case I didn't travel when I was young, nor did I end up going to University as was the original plan, and both those experiences may well have broadened my outlook, but that said, if I had not got that first job or then gone contracting, we wouldn't be here at Valetta today. Every pathway is different, whether there is a family business to commit to or not and whether you enter agriculture directly or via another industry. Find that bit that is really special to you, the thing that sends a shiver down your spine and get into it. It is hard, but by golly I wouldn't have chosen anything else.