Staying connected: Meat venture based on family ties

The Macdonald clan, including Willy Pears (left), Lucy Macdonald, Skye Macdonald, Henry Macdonald, Susan Macdonald holding Ruby Johnson (2), Willie Macdonald, Sophie Macdonald and Tim Johnson enjoy reuniting at Middlehurst Station. Photo: Jim Tannock Phot
The Macdonald clan, including Willy Pears (left), Lucy Macdonald, Skye Macdonald, Henry Macdonald, Susan Macdonald holding Ruby Johnson (2), Willie Macdonald, Sophie Macdonald and Tim Johnson enjoy reuniting at Middlehurst Station. Photo: Jim Tannock Photography

North Canterbury sisters Sophie and Lucy Macdonald have found an innovative way of staying connected to the family farm in Marlborough - marketing and selling the farm's merino lamb.

Two North Canterbury-based sisters have found a novel way of staying connected with their family farm.

Farm succession planning can be a challenge for many families, but sisters Sophie and Lucy Macdonald have found an innovative way of being part of the family farm, Middlehurst Station, after launching Middlehurst Delivered late last year.

‘‘It’s that whole thing around farm succession and talking about it. We’ve talked about it since we were at school,’’ Lucy Macdonald said.

The new venture allows the sisters to be a part of the family business, marketing and selling 100% merino lamb produced on the family farm.

‘‘We knew there was room for everybody to be part of the Middlehurst brand and we were very passionate about the product, so we wanted to be able to showcase that to everyday New Zealanders and for them to know where their food comes from,’’ Sophie Macdonald said.

‘‘Knowing where your food comes from is very important to people today.’’

Sophie (left) and Lucy Macdonald are bringing merino meat to New Zealand families. PHOTO: DANIELA AEBLI PHOTOGRAPHY
Sophie (left) and Lucy Macdonald are bringing merino meat to New Zealand families. PHOTO: DANIELA AEBLI PHOTOGRAPHY
A business plan was developed during last year’s Covid-19 lockdown and the new venture launched in November.

Middlehurst Delivered sells 100% merino meat packs, with a half sheep or a whole sheep cut up into ‘‘modern and versatile cuts’’ by Cheviot abattoir Harris Meats.

The meat is then dispatched by the sisters directly to consumers.

‘‘The support has been amazing. It’s been so awesome to see that local support,’’ Lucy Macdonald said.

‘‘People are loving that new concept and learning what you can do with all the different parts of the animal. We send out recipes with the boxes and give them tips on how to cook it to ensure that they are getting the best out of the product.’’

Merino meat was ‘‘a niche, high-end product’’ which they were keen to share, she said.

‘‘You’re buying an experience of opening the box and seeing what’s in there and what meals you can cook with it. It’s all exciting and new,’’ Sophie Macdonald said.

Sophie and Lucy Macdonald grew up in idyllic surroundings at Middlehurst Station, including this Hell’s Gate view. PHOTO: PETER EASTWAY
Sophie and Lucy Macdonald grew up in idyllic surroundings at Middlehurst Station, including this Hell’s Gate view. PHOTO: PETER EASTWAY
The sisters have added mince to their offering and have other products in mind, including possibly adding Angus meat.

The Macdonald family moved to Middlehurst Station, at the head of Awatere Valley in Marlborough, in 1998.

Parents Willie and Susan Macdonald continue to run the 16,550ha Middlehurst Station, while brother Henry runs a finishing block at Cheviot and sister Skye is doing a viticulture internship.

Between the two properties, the family runs 11,000 merino sheep and 1200 Angus cattle.

Middlehurst Station also has a lodge which is open to tourists.

The sisters enjoyed life growing up at Middlehurst, a high country station with an altitude ranging between 550m and 2500m, the house being located at 800m.

‘‘It was pretty cool. We got some pretty cool opportunities to get out on the farm,’’ Sophie Macdonald said.

The four siblings completed their schoolwork via correspondence, before attending secondary school in Christchurch, allowing for plenty of time on farm.

‘‘Doing half a day of schoolwork and then going out on the farm was pretty cool and seeing what Mum and Dad have been able to achieve is unreal,’’ Sophie Macdonald said.

‘‘And we all love going back and being onthe farm with our families.’’

Sophie Macdonald lives in Rangiora with husband Tim Johnson, a pilot with the New Zealand Flying Doctors Service, and daughter Ruby (2), while Lucy Macdonald lives on a farm in Waipara with her boyfriend Willy Pears.

DAVID.HILL@alliedpress.co.nz

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