Country Life

Friday 29 August 2014, with Carol Stiles, Susan Murray, Cosmo Kentish-Barnes & Duncan Smith

On This Programme

Totara Estate

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Totara topbarJim Howden in front of the slaughterhouse.

New Zealand's first export shipment of mutton was slaughtered at Totara Estate and sent to Britain from Port Chalmers in 1882.

The meat was frozen on board the ship 'Dunedin', which had a steam-powered Bell-Coleman refrigeration system installed, and arrived in Britain three months later.

Totara Estate's volunteer guide Jim Howden enjoys taking people through the North Otago slaughterhouse.

"There were six butchers and they each did 50 sheep a day. The next morning they (the carcasses) were taken by wagon across the field here to the rail head and loaded onto special wagons which had ice buckets on them. The meat was taken straight to Port Chalmers and loaded on the boat because there were no freezing units on the dock at the time."

It was the beginning of New Zealand's multi-billion dollar frozen meat industry. 

Totara Estate was established during the 1850's and was known for growing sheep, cattle and grain. It was purchased by the Glasgow-based New Zealand and Australian Land Company in 1866.

Because of the downturn in wool prices during the 1870's, New Zealand farmers were extremely interested in the results of the first frozen meat shipment from Australia to Britain in 1880. Once this proved successful, the company built a slaughterhouse at Totara in 1881.

By the end of the 1890's the export of frozen meat had become of considerable importance economically, politically and socially, to New Zealand.

Anne Sutherland is manager of Totara Estate and says the restored farm buildings and displays are a tribute to the courage and determination of New Zealand's early pioneers.

The property is now owned by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

totrara group webAllan Thompson, Margaret Jamison, Averill Jamison, Anne Sutherland and Jim Howden.

Blooming Gerberas

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flowers barBokay Flowers

Bernie Kay’s parents discouraged him from working on the land – so he became a policeman.

However he still had a hankering and, whenever and where ever he could, Bernie turned his hand to growing things.

Thirty-five years ago Bernie left the police, took the plunge and started growing flowers.

Now he grows gerberas and anthuriums under 1.3 hectares of cover in Ramarama, south of Auckland. He also grows irises on 4 hectares of land outdoors.

The greenhouses are heated using cleaned-up waste oil.

The flowers are grown hydroponically in beds of coconut fibre imported from India and Sri Lanka.

Bernie says he has seen the nature of flower buying change in the past three decades.

He says some men used to be reluctant to buy flowers.

“It wasn’t the thing to do. Now you see them quite often.  There’s one particular drain layer, a big guy who comes in in his truck. He’ll get an armful of flowers for his wife, his daughter, his mother and his mother-in-law.,,, you would never have seen that years ago.”

Thinking that retirement could be around the corner, 69 year old Bernie says he’s loved his choice of career.

“See, I don’t look on it as work. And, as had been said, when you find the job you love you never have to work for the rest of your life, and that’s not bad is it?”

IMG WEBBernie Kay and his Gerberas.

Intro and Guest

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carolSt Peter's Cam Holmes and Lincoln University's Dr Andrew West at the launch of the University's North Island demonstration dairy farm.

Canterbury-based Lincoln University has entered into two new farming ventures in the North Island; one is with St. Peter's School in Cambridge. The school has its own dairy farm.

Regional Wrap

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Around the North Island most farms have low pasture covers because it's been colder than usual and condensed lambing and calving has quickly pushed up demand for feed. Calving and lambing's in full swing in the South Island and survival rates are excellent.