Country Life

Friday 22 August 2014, with Carol Stiles, Susan Murray, Cosmo Kentish-Barnes & Duncan Smith

Farming's First Couple

Jody and Charlie McCaig web Jody and Charlie McCaig.

Six years ago Charlie McCaig’s only interaction with cows had been being chased by some as he walked his dog.

He had an office job in the UK and spent his days staring at a computer screen. 

This year Charlie and his wife Jody were named New Zealand’s sharemilker/equity farmers of the year at the National Dairy Industry Awards. 

Jody, who is a New Zealander, met Charlie on her OE. They travelled back to New Zealand and started looking for city jobs. But when they decided to do a bit of relief milking as a stop-gap, their lives took another direction.

They quite liked the idea of farming and the opportunities it presented.

Three years ago Charlie and Jody thought they’d see if they were meeting the grade and entered the Farm Manager of the year competition.

They won the regional title and came second in New Zealand.

Then last year, knowing the farm they’d been milking on would interest the judges, they competed in the Sharemilker category.

They’d been working on the Taranaki Community Rugby Trust Farm. The farm’s owned by Origin Energy and has an on-shore gas production station in the middle of the farm.  Origin leases the farm to the Taranaki Community Rugby Trust.

“So the trust employed us as their sharemilkers and all the profits from the farm go off to paying for rugby clubrooms and uniforms and coaching in Taranaki.” Jody says.

The young couple has just bought 250 cows, moved farm and entered a 50/50 sharemilking arrangement.

Charlie loves life as a dairy farmer.  He says farmers are supportive and keen to share their knowledge.

“As an industry to start a business in it’s fantastic because say if you went to town and started a clothes shop, you’ve got to worry about who is going to be your customer and how you are going to beat the guy down the road, but as dairy farmers we’ve got a guaranteed purchaser of our product so you just have to focus on being good at making it.”

dairyCharlie with one of the prizes and not a bad back-drop; the view from the shed!

  • Play
  • Download: Ogg  |  MP3
  • Audio duration: ( 21′ 18″ )

The Alexander Piano

adrain for web Adrian and his piano at Alpine Farm in South Canterbury.

The largest grand piano in the world.

Despite having no formal training 15-year-old Adrian Mann decided that he was going to build a piano from scratch. It was going to be the world's largest and longest grand piano and four years later, he had successfully completed his masterpiece.

Named the Alexander Piano after Adrian’s great, great grandfather Alexander Barrie Mann, the piano is about the same width as a standard grand but is a whopping 5.7metres long and with it came many unusual challenges.

“A big challenge were the keys, the keys had to be about a metre long. It’s an ordinary keyboard but inside the piano it goes a long way back and I went through about four different designs and prototypes making it, before it actually worked. It definitely took alot of energy and thinking, even when I went to bed I was thinking how am I going to stop the keys from warping, or how am I going to get the strings to work so they don’t clang into each other!” Adrian says.

He started building the piano in a garage but soon realised that the instrument was going to be too big, so local farmers Peter and Jane Evans suggested he move the project to an implement shed on their 1000 hectare sheep and beef property in the Pareora Gorge near Timaru, where he completed the project.

The piano is still in the farm shed and regular concerts are held there to showcase its unique sound. University of Otago music teaching fellow Tom McGrath will be playing it there on August 29.

In September the piano is leaving the farm for Auckland where it'll be on display at the KBB Music store and in October it will be at the Trusts Stadium in Waitakere, where a pianist will perform the first movement of a Prokofiev's Piano Concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia.

Adrian for web


  • Play
  • Download: Ogg  |  MP3
  • Audio duration: ( 12′ 57″ )

Intro and Guest

Builder and industrial hemp pioneer, Greg Flavall.

  • Play
  • Download: Ogg  |  MP3
  • Audio duration: ( 6′ 19″ )

Regional Wrap

August has suddenly turned quite cold in the North Island, slowing summerfruit tree growth and pasture, while in the South Island ground conditions are drying out and early spring cereals are being sown.

  • Play
  • Download: Ogg  |  MP3
  • Audio duration: ( 5′ 58″ )