New business hits spot at right time

Lucy Gilbert credits keeping busy on farm, and her new business, as helping her deal with...
Lucy Gilbert credits keeping busy on farm, and her new business, as helping her deal with postnatal depression.PHOTO: TONI WILLIAMS
Lucy Gilbert has a bounce in her step and a shine in her eyes.

She and friend Tash Andrews, of Timaru, started grazing table and platter business Fern & Feta Platters, bringing joy and wonder where it matters: via clients’ stomachs. And business is booming.

It belies a turbulent ride the 31-year-old has been on over the past 18 months.

Lucy Gilbert’s grazing tables and platters are hitting the spot where it matters: via clients’...
Lucy Gilbert’s grazing tables and platters are hitting the spot where it matters: via clients’ stomachs. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
While married to dairy farmer Nick Gilbert, Lucy has gone from being a top-performing travel agent, managing Flight Centre Ashburton, to losing her job as a Covid casualty then welcoming a much-loved newborn into the world but suffering postnatal depression.

The postnatal depression was a revelation, Lucy said.

She considered herself a strong woman, so she was surprised by the overwhelming effects she experienced.

The support of family in those early days had proved vital and had given Lucy a deeper understanding — and empathy — for people going through similar experiences.

"I just couldn’t shake it," she said.

Then one day it "luckily" just lifted.

Lucy credits her family — being busy on farm — and the growing support for Fern & Feta Platters as a lifeline in those early days.

It had allowed her to find herself again and had given her a personal focus, in social settings connecting with others, and one where she could channel her business acumen.

The business, which can cater up to 200 people with platters up to 8m long, started over New Year celebrations, with nibbles.

“We made a platter; it looked good, and we said ‘we should sell these’.”

So they did, and within 12 days they had their first booking and scores of people liking them on Facebook.

It had since developed into a growing sideline business for Lucy, who had already set up a five to 10-year plan which, with support from husband Nick, and in-laws Peter and Anne, she could juggle around being mum to bonny 6-month-old Tom, and helping out around the family’s Winchmore farm.

“I’m CEO of beautification,” she said, jokingly referring to her job of keeping green spaces along the tracks and around the cow shed mown and tidy, as well as planting native trees to beautify the site. She is also heavily involved with predator trapping, and will reacquaint herself with calf-rearing duties this year.

The farm is one of two dairy farms in-laws Peter and Anne own, but are each managed by sons Nick and Michael. Younger son Luke is also involved in the family business but works as a stock agent for Carrfields. Nick (30) has Snowfed Farm, at Winchmore, and Michael Glenalla Farm, at Rakaia.

Both farms milk 600 cows and are about 180ha milking on a 54-bale rotary.

Nick, the eldest son, is a fifth-generation dairy farmer, farming in his family dating back to his father Peter’s great-grandfather, who farmed in the 1900s at Leeston. Peter’s grandfather, Reg, then farmed in the 1940s, and his father, Tom (known as Ivie), was the one who supported Peter’s foray into the world of Jersey stud farming and ultimately his own Glenalla Jersey Stud.

The young couple are looking forward to taking on a sharemilker role on the farm next year.

While Fern & Feta will ensure Lucy keeps busy, she would not have any other way.

Plus it has the potential to grow as big as she allows.

 - Toni Williams

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