14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Jeff and Shirley Ravenwood of Fernglen and Motu-Nui - Sheep & beef, sheep milking.
These entrepreneurs have diversified their Masterton farming business so it now produces a growing range of sheep milk products, cashmere fibre and mānuka honey. This approach has allowed all family members to be involved in the business in their own ways – setting it up nicely for the next generation.
The Ravenwoods entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards so they could demonstrate to the wider world that farmers are good at – and enjoy – looking after their livestock and the environment.
Operating under one company umbrella, Fernglen and Motu-Nui run 3,800 sheep, 200 beef and 300 Cashmere goats. In 2018 – to further the sheep milk venture – a milking shed was built on the property, plus processing equipment was established at the local artisan cheese factory. The judges were impressed with how the couple are diversifying to develop a start-up business, plus how well each farm system works together.
A significant portion of the farm (390ha) features mainly fenced native bush and numerous QEII National Trust covenants, with the judges commenting on how it is an excellent example of biodiversity. Wetlands on Motu-Nui are fenced off, up to 200 poplar and willow poles are planted annually and most paddocks have shelter belts – either planted or natural.
Other conservation measures include utilising mānuka sites on the farm for honey production, using maintenance fertiliser only, and carefully recording the spread of effluent. The hills are watered with dams, while flat areas are watered with troughs that are cleaned annually.
The whole family is involved with nurturing and improving the properties, along with driving the Fernglen Farm sheep milk venture and products. The judges commended the Ravenwoods on the hard work they have put into their property, saying their amazing work ethic is clearly being passed onto the next generation.