Retired farmer as busy as ever in community

Former farmer Ken Gillespie, of Oturehua, spends much of his retirement working for his community. PHOTO: YVONNE O'HARA
Former farmer Ken Gillespie, of Oturehua, spends much of his retirement working for his community. PHOTO: YVONNE O'HARA
Ken Gillespie may be a retired sheep and beef farmer, but he is still just as busy as ever, as he is involved with the area’s heritage, ice sports, tourism, irrigation, minimum flows, and various community projects, and he is a master of the flat white.

He takes tourists on tours, sits on an irrigation company, as well as on water strategy and water user groups, belongs to Lions, and is a wool classer for the Merino Shearing competition.

Described by a fellow wool classer, Graeme Bell, as an [honorary] mayor of Oturehua, Mr Gillespie was raised on his family’s farm, just down the road from where he and wife Helen now live.

After finishing at Otago Boys’ High School, he had the choice of going to Lincoln University or taking part in a farming work exchange programme.

He chose the latter and spent 18 months living and working with farming families in Kansas in the early 1970s.

‘‘I was lucky as I stayed with the families and saw a diversity in farming methods and types from dairy farming to cropping and cattle fattening.’’

He met and married his first wife while there.

He returned to work on the family farm near Oturehua, a property that his grandparents had bought after moving from Scotland just before the Depression.

‘‘I consider myself very fortunate to be on the farm,’’ Mr Gillespie said.

He ran about 6000 stock units, as well as the Glen Ida Romney stud, which was started in response to the ‘‘fruit salad’’ mixed breeds trend.

Now retired, he runs a few sheep and cattle, horses, dogs and grandchildren.

One of his passions is the area’s history and he gives guided tours of the next door Hayes Engineering Works.

‘‘I have always had an interest in history,’’ he said.

‘‘I think history is so important as it is where we come from.’’

He said he also enjoyed taking tourists on tours around Cambria and St Bathans.

‘‘I’ve done three tours this week.

‘‘They seem to enjoy it.’’

When not sitting as chairman of the Hawkdun Idaburn Irrigation Company or as an executive member of the Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group, he is also involved with the Oturehua Winter Sports Club, the Otago Motorcycle Club, Maniototo Curling International, the Oturehua Hall Committee, Maniototo Lions Club, and has been an elder with the Maniototo Presbyterian church for more than 35 years.

He is the Blackstone Hill Cemetery sexton, he also does wool classing for the Merino Shearing competition, and is a trustee on the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust.

His former farm is the site of the Brass Monkey Rally, which has attracted hundreds of motorcyclists at Queen’s Birthday Weekend for the past 37 years.

When he sold his farm, he kept the site where the rally was held, to ensure continuity.

He also has an association with the Department of Corrections and finds jobs for the community workers.

His enormous energy and dedication to his community was recognised when he received a Community Service award in 2011.

‘‘I want to give a little back to the people who have given so much to us,’’ he said.

He is also involved with the Otago Water Resource Users Group (OWRUG), which has been working with the Otago Regional Council about their 1C and 6A water plan changes and their river and creek minimum flow and residual level requirements.

He said the group wanted to do the best for the environment, while satisfying irrigation and council requirements.

He said the ORC had always been approachable and keen to discuss the issues.

Plus he makes really nice flat whites from a machine in the pantry.

 

YVONNE O’HARA
yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz 

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