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South Otago "primary school sweethearts" David and Ailsa Mackie have kept their farm in the family for more than 100 years.
The Mackie family run sheep, beef and deer on their 500ha farm Kuriwao Downs at Clinton, about 40km east of Gore.
Mrs Mackie (80) has never lived anywhere else. She was a girl when she met her future husband at Clinton School. He was a year older than her.
The couple raised five children on the farm — Brent, Copland, Jane, Rachel and Arthur.
"My parents were primary school sweethearts," Brent said.
Tragedy touched the family; Arthur died, aged 16, after his gun accidentally discharged when rabbit hunting on the farm. Rachel died from cancer at 29.
No matter how tough life got, his parents vowed to carry on, Brent said.
About 80 people attended a Copland family reunion last year to celebrate the 100 years of family ownership of Kuriwao Downs.
Mrs Mackie’s father, George Copland, was 26 when he bought the more than 3500ha sheep farm in 1919. The farm was then called Kuriwao Estate.
His flat feet had disqualified him from serving in World War1. His twin brother Watt went to war and was gassed, spending a year recovering in a sanatorium after returning home.
After his recovery, he continued the family farm in Chertsey, Canterbury.
When George bought the farm in Clinton, he was engaged to Mary "Molly" Rankin.
Molly did not want to leave for South Otago, but the couple got married in the early 1920s, spending 50 years on the farm, raising seven children — Guthrie, Betty, Loris, Margaret, Rosalie, Alisa and Ivy.
At the reunion, Rosalie’s ashes were scattered on the farm as a piper played.
The farm had got smaller as blocks were sold, including about 1400ha to a neighbour in the 1920s and blocks of more than 800ha each to Guthrie and Betty.
George Copland retired in 1974. He and Molly moved to Waimate and both now lie in the family cemetery in Chertsey.
David introduced deer to the farm in 1973. The dining room in the family home on the farm features chandeliers David had made from some of his deer antlers.
Other works of his art on the farm include three life-size deer statues and statues of a sheep and a dog on either side of the farm gates.
David made the five Clydesdale statues which stand in central Clinton.
Brent and his wife, Jo, run the farm now, supported by his brother, Copland.
Keeping the farm in the family had been tough at times, Brent said.
The value of the farm halved during the policies of Rogernomics in the 1980s.
"Never count on equity — it can come and go — just like the sweats in the night," Brent said.
To keep the farm back then, Brent got a job at the freezing works and his mother returned to nursing.
"We beat the bastards but a lot of good people lost their farms."
David recalled protesting outside banks against skyrocketing interest rates — theirs had hit 24%.
The farm now runs about 3100 breeding ewes, about 800 hoggets and some rams, more than 70 beef cows and calves and some bulls, plus nearly 130 hinds and some stags.
The worst weather event to hit the farm was a snowstorm, followed by driving rain, during lambing about a decade ago, Brent said.
"It was wave after wave for about two weeks. That’s how farming is — you’ve got to roll with it."
David and Ailsa have six grandchildren and a great-grandchild but it remains to be seen if any of them will continue the farm.
Under the current political climate, farming was no longer a career many would consider chasing, Brent said.
"It’s a grind — the fun’s been taken out of it — there’s days I wish it wasn’t here and it would go away."
It wasn’t all bad though. The best time on the farm was when the growth returns, a mix including grass, daffodils and foliage on willow trees.
"I love spring and all the new life," Brent said.
"It all wakes up," Ailsa said.