Driven by enthusiasm for all things rural

Kate Acland with husband David. Photo: Supplied
Kate Acland with husband David. Photo: Supplied
Mt Somers farmer and businesswoman Kate Acland is passionate about the rural sector.

She knows it is facing enormous change with environmental reforms set to affect farm businesses, but wants to be at the table as the sector works to address the challenges.

She is on the board of Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand,has past involvement with the Strong Wool Action Group and has just taken a place on the board of Beef + Lamb New Zealand as the northern South Island farmer-director.

"I’m hugely passionate about the sector and future of our family farming businesses.

Kate Acland shares the wine making process with sons Leo and Otto. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Kate Acland shares the wine making process with sons Leo and Otto. PHOTO SUPPLIED

"Beef and Lamb is a fantastic organisation and I feel very strongly that it has a key role to play in the successful future of those businesses.’’

Mrs Acland and husband David employ 25 staff over a highly diversified group of businesses.

Among them is Mt Somers Station, a Mid Canterbury foothills property running 30,000 stock units in a mixture of sheep, beef, deer, a 850-cow dairy unit and a honey operation.

The station has a fulltime staff of 12.

The Aclands, who have three young children, also make blankets from their farm’s lambswool. As a strong-wool farmer, Mrs Acland has a soft spot for wool.

“It’s such an undervalued product".

She holds a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and oenology and a master’s degree from Lincoln University in applied science majoring in farm management consultancy.

For the past couple of weeks she has been at Sugar Loaf Winery, in Marlborough, making wine. She has owned the business since she was 26.

Now, a trusty team looks after it during the year and Mrs Acland visits regularly and mucks-in during harvest.

“We’ve had a dream run this harvest with weather and fruit quality, but crops are well back — around 30% on average — and for the first time ever, we’ve picked everything before April 1."

“The wines from vintage 2021 are going to be fantastic but off the back of unprecedented growth in our markets through Covid we are going to run short and we’re looking at our stock allocations pretty carefully," she said.

She believed the wine industry’s levy body had helped position its sector on to the world stage as high quality and sustainable producers.

She saw similar potential for the red meat sector and believed it was important for farmers to get involved in industry organisations.

“In this current environment of change farmers can’t afford to be disengaged.

"Industry bodies play a key role in negotiating and shaping policy that will impact their businesses," she said.

They can also help with tools and education to adapt, survive and thrive.

“There’s been a big step up on this in recent times, with the agricultural industry groups working together, and I’m keen to keep building on this.

"My position as both a dairy, and sheep and beef farmer will help further bridge that gap at board level.

“We all have the same goals with the environment, to look after our land and to be constantly improving," she said.

Mrs Acland believed farmer concern was mostly driven by "the pace and scale of policy changes relating to the environment including essential freshwater, climate change, biodiversity and impact of the increase in farm sales into forestry as a result of the increase in the carbon price."

She wants farmers kept informed on “great policy work" being done by BLNZ but to ensure advocacy being done by the organisation had workable outcomes for farmers.

Globally there was more interest in how food was produced and its environmental impact.

There was also a spotlight on red meat production and it provided New Zealand with an opportunity to differentiate itself from others as its grass-fed systems had a much lower environmental impact.

New Zealand farmers could show why they were the most sustainable producers of red meat in the world.

“We also need to tell this story better domestically as a lot of the research coming out globally is based on fed-lot systems that just don’t reflect how we farm in New Zealand."

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