All roads lead to the land for Dicey clan

Three generations of the Dicey family gather in a familiar location, the vineyard. Back row from left: Odelle Morshuis (James' wife), Alison Holland (Matt's wife), Matt, Robin, James, Margie, Sally and Lloyd McGinty (Sally's husband). Front row from left: Matai McGinty (7), Mia Dicey (10), Hannah Dicey (7), Tahu McGinty (3), Josh Dicey (8), Oliver Dicey (5) and Ariana McGinty (4). Photo supplied. Members of the Dicey family tend to have good foresight.

About the turn of the 19th century, Leicester Maguire Dicey was a British fruit buyer working in Basra, in what is now Iraq.

After a cholera outbreak he became a representative for the British government in the region.

He came up with an ambitious plan, brokering a deal for the British government allowing it a 99-year lease of Middle East oilfields for 10,000.

Homeland officials laughed him off.

Over a century later, oil from the Middle East is in high demand, and the cause of much conflict.

For Leicester Dicey's grandson, Robin Dicey, and his family living in Otago, it turned out quite well.

As a result of rejection by the British government, Leicester Dicey decided to relocate to South Africa's Hex Valley, where he established a plum and grape orchard.

The family estate developed until many of the family were involved.

Some eventually left horticulture, but many have since returned to the fold in South Africa.

However, for Robin Dicey, staying at home to work on an orchard was not enough.

He wanted a challenge.

In 1977, Mr Dicey migrated to New Zealand, and began working for Corbans winery in Tolaga Bay, north of Gisborne.

His stint there was short, however, as Mr Dicey discovered he preferred to be his own boss.''

I found it smothering to work for a company where you are not in charge of your own decision-making process.''

Soon after, he became involved in the kiwifruit industry, but did not enjoy it.''

There is no magic - it is just a crop. But it got the kids to uni,'' he said.

In 1988, he visited Central Otago and ''absolutely fell in love'' with the region, and was inspired by grapes being grown at Rippon Vineyard.

On returning to Central Otago, after much research into grape growing and having decided the region was perfectly suited to the crop, he and his wife bought land in Bannockburn within 24 hours of arriving.

Then it was back to start a grapevine nursery in the Bay of Plenty, the Diceys in 1992 bringing the vines to Bannockburn to plant in what is now part of the Mt Difficulty vineyard.

The Diceys settled in Bannockburn and in a search for work Mr Dicey proposed a viticulture course at Otago Polytechnic in Cromwell.

He got the job, and became the lecturer in a course he named ''8000 years of viticulture in four days plus a field trip''.

Next up was establishing a vineyard management business, Grape Vision, for absentee landowners and property owners without viticultural knowledge.''

In order to get ahead you've got to have more front than a rat with a gold tooth,'' he said.

In the meantime, Mr Dicey's children had gone off to university, son Matt to study chemistry at the University of Canterbury, son James law and commerce at the University of Otago and daughter Sally law and resource and regional planning also at Otago.

Given their experiences of being put to work on the kiwifruit orchard as children, any interest in working in horticulture was not expected, Mr Dicey said.

Contradicting that, however, both sons returned to the fold to work in the viticulture industry, and are now based in Bannockburn, but daughter Sally still lives in Dunedin.''

We get a lot of time together. Matt and James each have their own vineyards, so they really have the monkey on the back - so no escaping that,'' Mr Dicey said.

Their return to the family tradition was not swift, both sons living and working overseas in various locations, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Europe and the United States before returning to New Zealand.

James eventually took over Mr Dicey's vineyard management business, and Matt is a winemaker for Mt Difficulty. As for the next generation, it was too early to say if they would continue on the family path of viticulture or horticulture.''

If they want to become something like the prime minister that is up to them,'' Mr Dicey said.''

But it will be hard to separate them from the land - running all over the place. They won't forget this when they are older.''

For the time being, Bannockburn is home for much of the Dicey clan.''

To live in Central Otago is to realise you must have been a very good person in a previous life,'' Mr Dicey said.


CELEBRATING THE KIWI WAY
The United Nations has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming.

Under the banner ''Feeding the world, caring for the earth'', it wants to get people thinking about how families and communities across the globe work their land to produce food.

Organisers say because consumers are increasingly distanced from the producers of their food, they want to raise awareness of family farms and the contribution they make to their communities and the economy.

New Zealand was founded on agriculture.

In the beginning farming families in this country produced food to sustain the ''mother country'' - Great Britain.

Today, our agricultural sector exports to the world.

New Zealand farming families escape many of the challenges faced by Third World countries where it is often the poor who live rurally and can struggle to produce food.

Farming families in many countries also lack freedom to determine what and how they will farm.

But there are shared concerns, such as succession issues, indebtedness, rural and urban tension, and caring for the environment.

It is also a year to celebrate the New Zealand way of farming - our ''No8 wire'' style - which has produced innovations which have been shared with the world.

This year, Southern Rural Life will share the stories of our farming families, in all their diversity, celebrating the unique ways they have met the challenges and have made contributions to their communities.


 - Leith Huffadine.