A champion for farming

Fiona Hancox's father was Colin Richardson, a man who started life as a townie, before eventually owning 12 West Otago farms as well as being extensively involved in farming politics.

Although the son of a tailor, he decided at an early age he wanted to be a farmer.

His first agricultural job was on a property at Crookston, before moving to Gimmerburn to work for the Paterson family and to be a fencing contractor.

Jim Paterson helped him into his first farm - Avalon - at Heriot, when he was 24.

He made the run-down property a success, increasing the stock rate, fertility and production before he and his wife Bev, along with their four children, bought a further 11 farms in the Heriot/Wilden area during his 50-year career.

She said he believed in paying off debt as quickly as possible, before making his next move.

''He was the first to go into self-feed silage here and was an early adopter of the Perendale breed, to better the genetics,'' Mrs Hancox said.

He also spent money on fertiliser and gorse and broom control to bring additional land into production. In addition to farming, he served on the Otago Regional Council and PPCS board (now Silver Fern Farms) and was president of the Federated Farmers Otago branch.

He was involved with the Moa Flat Water scheme and the Heriot Rugby Club as well as other community projects.

He was also famous for telling the then Prime Minister David Lange a few home truths about the rural recession the farming industry was going through, during the opening of the Invermay research facility in 1986.

The rural recession of the 1980s, brought on by Rogernomics, the removal of subsidies, interest rate hikes and land and stock value drops forced many farmers into bankruptcy or to sell.

Mrs Hancox said her father was a firm believer in ''agriculture and knew it had a strong future''.

''He valued farming and he valued the community.''

He was awarded the 1974 A. C. Cameron Award and the 1978 Grasslands Memorial Award.

He died in 2011. His wife Bev died the same year, leaving four children: Allan, Fiona, Anne and Janet.