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Hyundai Country Calendar

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Episode 12: Realities of island life


It's blowing 40 knots, it's been raining solidly for eight hours and Scott Mabey is a worried man.

The 32-year-old is a fifth generation farmer on Great Barrier Island - and right now the weather could make or break his annual bottom line.

Three big stock truck and trailer units are on standby to make the trip by barge to the outermost island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, then drive to Scott's family farm on the isolated east side of the island

When they arrive they'll be loaded with cattle, drive back across the island, take the barge back to Auckland, then drive south to the year's big weaner calf sale at Tuakau.

But none of it will happen if the barge can't run - and if the Mabey's stock doesn't arrive in time for the sale, it could be the difference between success and failure for the entire season.

Scott says "It's a vital part of the year's income and it fits into our farm plan.  If the stock misses the sale, there is no guarantee the same buyers will be around a couple of weeks later." 

With the barge only hours away from departing downtown Auckland, Scott has just returned from the top of the farm where he can see nothing but heavy seas, wind and rain.

He's been meticulously planning this massive operation for weeks and the foul weather is just one of the realities of farming on an island. 

The Country Calendar team joined Scott and his family on Great Barrier Island to see the trials and tribulations of Barge Day on one of the country's most isolated farms. 

Everything is built around the barge.  "When you've got half a dozen animals to go to the sale you can't ring up a truck," Scott says.   You've got to wait until you have a barge load."

But Scott says island life has its compensations.  Few other farmers can take a rod and reel with them on a muster and come home with a snapper.

As well as following the fortunes of the cattle, the team also met Scott's mother, Helen Maybe, who was widowed early but brought up three boys on the family farm. 

Despite the pressures of farming in a remote location, Scott is more than aware of maintaining the family traditions and the legacy of those who have farmed this land before him.

"This is home, it's in my blood so you certainly look after it and do the best you can to keep it going the way it has for all those years."

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