Te Pare Farming Partnership

Organics good for health and for business

  • Te Pare Farming Wairarapa

    The Bargh brothers (L to R) Rob, Pete and Kev.

The Bargh family name has been synonymous with farming in the Wairarapa for decades; Charles Bargh farmed in Pahautea in the early 1900s, while his son Victor, along with Bill Clarke, farmed a block that became known as Te Pare.

Fast forward to 2013, and three of Vic’s sons Rob, Kev and Pete are running the large scale dairying operation, but in quite a different way from in their father and grandfather’s day.

Te Pare is a 543 hectare organic dairy farm running 800 cows, located on the eastern side of Lake Wairarapa. Rob and his two siblings run the farm with their wives and partners Michele, Kim and Corrie, assisted by three full time staff. The trio also has two other brothers, Jim and Chris, who live in Wellington and Tora respectively.

“The extended family and staff live on the property, spread across seven houses,” says Rob. “We’ve always got on as a family – it works very well.”

As is often the case, Rob and his siblings left the farm they grew up on to further their education and careers, and to travel overseas; Pete worked as a draftsman, Rob as a teacher and Kev studied at university. But the pull of rural life was strong and by the late 1970s, the three had returned to Te Pare.

“When we came back it was still a conventional dairying operation,” explains Rob. By the mid-1990s the boys had effectively taken over the farm from their parents and decided to convert the operation to organic.

“The transition for the dairying operation to organic status took three years, and by 2000 we were fully certified.”

Rob says there were many reasons they decided to convert to organics. “We never liked using a lot of chemical on the farm anyway, and I experienced spray poisoning as a youngster. Also, our father always said “to succeed you need to do something different”, so we did.

“More and more, people want to know what’s in their food and where it comes from. Basically the difference between conventional and organic dairying is the end result – an audited guarantee that there is no residue present in the milk. No antibiotics, drugs or sprays are permitted; a biological approach is taken, which focuses on soil health.

“Regular herbage and soil samples are taken, along with blood samples from the stock to check all is well. Being organic, we are monitored closely,” he explains.

Te Pare was fully certified by the time Fonterra’s organic programme started in 2001 and was one of only 15 farms taken on as a supplier to the dairy giant. Fonterra takes the milk for organic processing, and although the company plans to drop the Wairarapa region from the programme, Te Pare will stay certified, and the farm is now at record production.

Moore Stephens Markhams has worked with the Barghs for more than three decades and has helped the family navigate the transition to organics.

“We’ve been with director Sharon Parker for more than 15 years,” says Rob. “She’s absolutely excellent! She’s level headed and keeps us on track – she’s a good fit with our business.”

The Moore Stephens Markhams team takes care of all of Te Pare’s financial matters. “They do everything – the bills, the whole lot. It takes the pressure off us and we know that everything’s coded correctly and the IRD is happy.

Sharon is also working with the family on a succession plan. With several partners and family members, it’s a complex structure. “Sharon keeps a tight rein on everything. We think she’s great.”

Published Autumn 2013.

Serious about your success?