Farm foresters Jane and Peter Evans, who farm Alpine Farm, in the Pareora Gorge, are this year's winners of the New Zealand Landcare Trust innovation in sustainable farm forestry award. Photo by Ruth Grundy
Peter Evans laughs and says wryly, ''Farm foresters are a
They face ''a lot of disappointment'' and stories of
perseverance are legendary.
A fourth generation farm forester, he speaks from experience.
He and wife, Jane, farm Alpine Farm in the Pareora Gorge. It
is a 1050ha traditional sheep and beef farm with nearly 100ha
in forestry, made up of 80ha of pine, 6ha of macrocarpa and a
further 10ha of mixed species.
The couple have invested more than $300,000 in forestry since
This year, they were acknowledged not just for their own work
but for the diligence of the Evans family who, since 1875,
have nurtured and earned their living from their land.
The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association this year presented
the couple with the New Zealand Landcare Trust innovation in
sustainable farm forestry award at its conference in
''We were thrilled, not just for us, for the family,'' Mrs
Her husband was pragmatic.
''We bought a lot of land infested with gorse and we chose to
do something with it.''
Six kilometres of the Pareora River winds through the
property and lies at the heart of the home farm and its
But its swimming holes, rocky features and shrublands also
draw hundreds each year who want to while away the hours
swimming, picnicking, camping and exploring.
Today, almost all the river is fenced off from stock and
edged with plants designed to absorb run-off and provide
habitat for native birds and insects.
Springs and wetlands are being protected and planted with
naturally occurring trees and shrubs.
The family was one of the first farming families to use
willow plantings to control flows and some of those earliest
plantings, made about 100 years ago, remain.
They were early adopters of the practice of using poplars for
Ecological specialists like the Timaru District Council's
environmental consultant Mike Harding and lizard advocate and
conservationist Hermann Franks have praised the way the
various ecosystems are sustained by the environmentally
sensitive nature of development.
Mr Evans' great-grandfather, Welsh farm labourer Benjamin
Hudson Evans, bought the ''wee bit of no-mans land'' between
the Elworthy and Rhodes estates shortly after arriving in New
His wife, Elizabeth Allot, a keen gardener from a Canterbury
market gardening family, named it for its aspect and
Some of the original garden, various trees and an oak planted
in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee
Mr Evans said his hard-working and frugal great-grandfather
was able to buy farms for his children as well as fund three
visits back to Wales in his lifetime.
His son and Mr Evans' grandfather Benjamin Edward Evans took
over in 1912 and farmed through some of the most difficult
times in New Zealand's rural history. In 1915 he added the Mt
Misery block to the farm.
That same year his son, Peter's father, Wynne, was born.
The century, which had begun with wars and the Depression,
turned to years of progress and innovation - tractors
replaced horses, scientists discovered new ways to boost
production - and the agrichemical era had begun.
''He [Wynne] was a great tree planter,'' Mrs Evans said.
''He would plant them anywhere, his sister would say. If
there was space in the rose bed there would be a tree popped
in,'' she said.
Mr Evans said his father was more of a ''tree planter'' while
he planted plantations.
Wynne Evans began work on the farm at 14, initially using
horses to break in the land.
But the purchase of a tractor brought with it new
opportunities and allowed him to take advantage of the boom
in red clover seed sales.
Peter Evans took over the farm in the early 1980s.
Shortly after taking on full responsibility in 1989, the
couple bought Mt Horrible and its gorse problem.
A farm forestry field day in Cheviot opened their eyes to the
potential of pines.
Not only would a pine plantation take over and control gorse
but it would provide a future income stream.
They have been quick to adopt further new practices.
They adopted rotational grazing, were one of the first in the
area to use direct drilling as a way to conserve soil, and
work continues to develop the farm's irrigation
''We've been able to do our thing, buying land and developing
that,'' Mr Evans said.
There was certain pride in knowing that was ''your bit of
He is convinced of the value of tree crops on hill country.
He estimated a return of $1000 a ha a year ''and that just
Studies had shown the figures stacked up financially against
other land uses, he said.
''Not in good quality flat land but I do think for hill
country it's a good use of the land.''
The market did fluctuate but they could choose when to
harvest,''We could cut some down at 25 [years old] but would
like to wait till 30.
''If we have to wait until 35, so be it.''
There were challenges. It could be difficult to establish
plantings while contending with hares and wallabies, drought
and storms and, ultimately, you had to be able to harvest the
wood efficiently and economically.
Initially, it appeared the Emissions Trading Scheme would be
a boon for farm foresters; instead, the ever-changing rules
had proved to be yet another challenge, he said.
Looking to the future, the couple want to plant more Douglas
fir, macrocarpa, cypress and redwoods.
There was an issue with the timber treatments needed for
radiata pine, plus it did not pay to ''have all your eggs in
one basket'' in case of a biosecurity incursion.
''You do change ... we are learning too,'' Jane said.
As members of the Farm Forestry Association, they have the
chance to visit properties in various parts of the country,
to swap information, to learn what works for others and to
return with the confidence to try new things on their own
Wynne Evans was a member of the organisation formed in 1957
and Peter and Jane Evans joined in the early 1990s.
Peter Evans is South Canterbury branch chairman.
While their children Richard (26), a lawyer, John (23), a
mechanical engineer, and Lucy (20), a student at Victoria
University, were unlikely to want to go farming ''in the
traditional sense'', they loved the place and had a ''great
sense of belonging'', Mrs Evans said.
Between them they had the skills - managerial and in
governance - to take on ownership ''in ways that we can't
imagine'', she said.
-by Ruth Grundy