Improvements a legacy for the future

Shingly Creek Station farmers Julie and Tony Kearney with daughters Paige (4) and Tori (2). Sam ...
Shingly Creek Station farmers Julie and Tony Kearney with daughters Paige (4) and Tori (2). Sam (6) was at school. PHOTO: SALLY RAE
At Shingly Creek Station, Julie Kearney is getting into bees.

Mrs Kearney and her husband Tony, both fifth-generation farmers, share a passion for the agricultural sector.

For them, it was hugely important to leave a legacy for the next generation and they were always looking to improve their property for the future.

The couple farm about 10,000 stock units, comprising a mix of sheep and cattle, on the 2000ha property on the Pig Root, near Morrisons.

Soon to be added to that stock list is bees.

Nearly two years ago, Mr and Mrs Kearney were discussing how they did not see many bees on the farm.

So Mrs Kearney decided to do something about it, completing a certificate in apiculture through Taratahi, which was ‘‘brilliant’’.

‘‘Bees are so interesting and the dynamics in the hive are so fascinating. There’s a lot more management to the hive than I first anticipated,’’ she said.

She hoped to start with 12 hives this season and help with pollination on the farm, with the possibility of ending up with a small honey business.

Bees were a positive story — ‘‘everyone wins from having bees’’ — and they were fantastic from the environmental aspect.

Living in a reasonably remote area, with a young family, meant it was difficult to have a job off-farm, so the new venture ‘‘fits perfectly’’. She had been looking for ways she could help out on the farm.

The kitchen of the Shingly Creek homestead was also certified, so she was able to process the honey at home.

Mr Kearney was originally from Ranfurly, where he farmed the family property, while his wife came from Wanaka and also grew up on a farm.

She studied agricultural science at Lincoln University and became an agronomist, working with farming company Greenfield doing a lot of dryland development. The couple have three children — Sam (6), Paige (4) and Tori (2).

Mr Kearney came from a ‘‘paddock farm’’ and so the scope and the hills of Shingly Creek were an attraction.

There was a good balance of the hot Central Otago climate with more of the coastal rainfall, Mrs Kearney said.

It was isolated ‘‘in a sense’’ but not far away from Palmerston, Central Otago and Dunedin, and the school bus turned at the gate, she said.

The couple planted more than 1000 trees this winter, including some shelter belts and replanting some woodlots.

It was not with the intention of felling but for aesthetic value and it was ‘‘going to look fantastic for the next generation’’, Mrs Kearney said.

The plantings were not benefiting their business or ‘‘bottom line’’, but it was something they were looking for to the future.

‘‘I think most farmers feel that way . . . We are long-term thinkers,’’ she said.

Several months ago, Mrs Kearney generated much comment on social media after she expressed concern about the negative image being portrayed by the media about farmers, saying ‘‘I don’t know a farmer who doesn’t want to leave their farms in a better state than present for the next generation’’.

In hindsight, it had been driven after she had been out shifting break-fences all day in the hills, she said.

‘‘I was out there on this beautiful farm [on a] beautiful day. I just thought, I’m so sick of this. A lot of people are thinking the same.’’

As far as addressing the perception, she believed it was around education.

‘‘How do we show the urban population we are doing good things?

‘‘We are not trying to ruin our environment. This is our livelihood. It’s not only our business, it’s our life, and it really makes me quite sad when I hear people say we’re not looking after the environment.’’

To those who were knocking farming, Mr Kearney suggested they ‘‘know what you’re talking about before you start criticising — there’s a lot of hearsay out there’’.

There were ‘‘so many cool things happening’’ in the rural sector and Mrs Kearney did not know anyone who wanted to ruin their land or the environment.

It was an amazing lifestyle for their children to grow up in and they felt very lucky to be doing what they were doing. They did not take it for granted.

Mr Kearney thanked previous generations for setting them up so they could ‘‘have a go at it’’. Their aim was to get stock performance as good as possible, while hopefully making a profit.

Moving to Shingly Creek had been a good move as it was important to enjoy what they did, he said.

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