From dairy to blueberries and from milk to beer, agribusiness diversification is the hot topic at this year’s National Fieldays according to ANZ’s Managing Director Commercial & Agri Mark Hiddleston.
Visiting Fieldays this week, Mr Hiddleston said many producers were looking outside their main business for ways to make their operations more profitable and resilient.
“In just half an hour I met three different dairy farmers who either have, or are in the process of, looking at other forms of milking. That might be diversifying to milking sheep or goats, or moving into something entirely different, such as hops to support the craft beer industry,” Mr Hiddleston said.
“The message is the same - you can’t just stick to your knitting all the time. You really need to think about how to create value, create wealth and create jobs.”
Visitors to the ANZ Pavilion are getting a taste of that spirit first hand with Jan and John McIntyre offering tastings of their award-winning Kōwhai Creamery ice cream.
Formerly dairy farmers, the McIntyres now farm and export blueberries. As they could only afford a smaller piece of land, they looked at different options at how they could make it profitable and decided on blueberries.
“John and I really loved the cows so it wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” Mrs McIntyre said, “but we put our heads together, and head down backside up, started planting blueberries.”
But not the entire crop goes offshore, with some finding its way into their ice cream.
Based in Waharoa, near Matamata, Kōwhai Creamery ice cream is made using fresh jersey milk bought from a farm down the road.
“Basically, we had the fruit and we had the bountiful Waikato with all its dairy farms, and we decided to combine them and make our own ice cream,” Mrs McIntyre said.
“What Jan and John have done with Kōwhai Creamery is outstanding,” Mr Hiddleston said.
“To start out in share milking and see an opportunity in blueberries, and then to leverage that further into creating your own ice cream really shows the Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit.”
Mrs McIntyre said the local food story resonated with customers.
“They come along and they can’t believe that I’ve made it, and that the milk has come from a jersey cow down the road, and the blueberries are from an orchard up the road. They get a real kick out of that, so it is very special.”
The McIntyres said there was a certain amount of risk involved making a business change like this and it involved a lot of hard work.
“I think if you have got good Kiwi ingenuity and a great work ethic you can do anything, it is hard work but you definitely get the rewards,” Mrs McIntyre said.