Lynx Farm, Fernglen and Motunui

Rural businesses on a winning streak

Inventive farm practices and sound financial planning have earned two Wairarapa rural businesses major wins in the 2011 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Carterton’s Lynx Farm was named as Supreme Winner and also collected the Dairy Farm and Habitat Improvement awards, while coastal neighbours Fernglen won the Livestock Award.

But according to Lynx owners Ray and Lyn Craig, the haul of awards hasn’t changed how they do things down on the farm.

“It’s brilliant that we have been recognised for how we farm and the methods we employ rather than doing something specific for the awards,” says Ray.

The judges were impressed with a number of initiatives the Craigs have implemented on the 262 hectare farm including a significant erosion control programme, commenting that it was “the best riparian plantings seen on a dairy farm in New Zealand”.

The judges also commended Ray and Lyn’s initiative of switching to once a day milking. Although there has been a small drop in production, it has been more than offset by the reduction in running costs. More importantly perhaps is the flexibility in grazing management and cow welfare, which Ray says is a priority and the judges praised as a “great work life balance for both family and cows”.

Ray and Lyn moved from Wellington to Carterton in 1990, initially to lease Ray’s parents’ farm. The last 14 years have seen the Craigs invest, acquire and develop blocks to build their business to the sizable operation it is today.

It was Ray’s father who, 20 years ago, first introduced them to Markhams, a relationship that continues today. Principal, Mike Flower provides the family with a range of financial services such as tax and succession planning and set up their family trust.

A few years ago, Mike assisted the Craigs to prepare a five and ten year forecast, a tool Ray believes has been vital to their success.

“The financial forecasts have been extremely useful and although things are always changing in our business and we are constantly re-evaluating, I’m happy to say we are not too far off the mark. Forecasts are essential for a business like ours as they let us monitor the farm’s performance and plan future developments and initiatives,” says Ray.

The Craigs handle some of the financial work, such as GST, themselves, but when trouble strikes, Lyn says Markhams is only too happy to talk through solutions over the phone.

The future looks bright for Lynx with Lyn and Ray planning to take more control of the whole farming operation and fine tune the once-a-day milking regime. Ray says he is quietly happy with where they are at in terms of farming sustainably, saying “it all just works”.

Further east on the Wairarapa coast, Jeff and Shirley Ravenwood run a 1150 hectare sheep and cattle business, with their property consisting of two farms: Fernglen and Motunui.

Being pestered to enter the Ballance awards by friends certainly paid off for Jeff and Shirley who thought it was about time they saw what the competition was all about.

“We were really impressed with the diverse range of businesses that entered: dairy, beef and sheep farmers, but also beekeepers and vintners. Some high profile businesses were involved so it was great to be in their company,” says Jeff.

He adds that winning the Livestock Award was recognition of their hard work and passion.

The Ravenwoods have had a very close relationship with Markhams over the last 15 years, especially as Shirley works as an accounting clerk in the firm. However it is director, Alistair McLennan who provides the business with financial services including advice on bookkeeping, accounting policies and setting up of their family trust.

“Markhams has been great to deal with and Alistair has been a valuable sounding board,” says Jeff.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead for both of these award-winning rural businesses and Markhams is proud to be part of their journey.

Published Spring 2011.

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