Episode 17 - Outside The Square
On the next episode, screening 9 July 2016, at 7pm on TV ONE:
Outside the Square
What sort of farmer invites 10,000 people to a three-day party at their place every New Year?
Bill Worsfold was only 18 when his father slid a shoebox full of accounts along the table to him. The message was clear Youre in charge now.
That was the 60s and Bill was the fourth generation Worsfold to run the 175ha dairy farm in Kaiwaka, Northland. He felt a huge sense of responsibility, which went beyond making money out of dairy.
Were responsible for the water that runs through our land, all the way to the sea, he says.
He set about fencing off large tracts of native bush and waterways and planting gullies. When he met his wife Bev in the 1970s she was quietly impressed.
I thought, Now theres a man whos thinking ahead! We had a lot in common. We both thought outside the square. I met Bill, and I never left!
Bill and Bev worked hard, investing every spare cent into planting trees. But they dreamed of getting out of dairying and exploring new ways to make a living for themselves and their four sons.
They started to diversify, although Bill says: We had to keep milking to keep the bank manager happy.
In 1984 they opened a land-management consultancy to help farmers explore diversification, water conservation and sustainability. But the farming world was not ready for their company, Rural Design.
When I started Rural Design I had sustainable land use on my card but I had to withdraw it because nobody knew what sustainable was, Bill says.
Instead of farmers, it was lifestyle-block owners, regional councils and property developers who flocked to Rural Design. Now, three decades on, the farm and the firm are run by Bill and Bevs sons, Eden and Heath, and the diversification continues. Theyve opened a native plant nursery on site and they employ 26 staff.
Thanks to Bill and Bevs years of wetland conservation and revegetation work, their park-like farm is the perfect shop window for the design business.
By 2002 Rural Design was doing well enough for the Worsfolds to sell the dairy herd but they still consider themselves true-blue farmers, now fattening and finishing beef year-round.
In perhaps their most daring diversification move, the family welcomes 10,000 party-goers to their property every New Year for Northern Bass, a three-day music festival that attracts top Kiwi and international acts like Andy C, Shapeshifter and Ladi6.
Heath and Eden have plans for even more enterprises on the farm, but with two non-negotiable bottom lines to continue to support the extended family and to protect the land for future generations.
For more on the Worsfolds landscaping business, visit: www.RuralDesign.co.nz
For more about the New Year music festival, visit: www.NorthernBass.co.nz
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