Episode 9: Catlins Organics
Originally screened on April 18 at 7pm on TV
When Bruce McGill was studying agriculture at Lincoln University, he reckoned the handful of students studying organic farming were a bunch of dreamers.
Nearly three decades later, his Catlins hill country property is completely organic and he sees organics as the way forward for all New Zealand farming.
Bruce was working as a stock agent when his father died, leaving him a dubious inheritance - a rough piece of hill country on the Catlins coast that his father had spent years developing.
It was in the mid-eighties when farming was barely economic and because of the development work, the property had a big mortgage.
Bruce and his wife Denise faced a dilemma - to sell and lose everything his father had struggled for, or take on the land and a mountain of debt.
They took the land, but the only way forward was to cut costs.
Bruce also had concerns that his father's health might have been affected by the amount of chemicals he'd used developing the farm.
These two events brought them to think outside the square and eventually abandon the use of chemicals and artificial fertilisers.
Over time they developed a worm-resistant sheep flock and found alternative ways to keep their soil, pasture and stock healthy.
The McGills took a fair amount of mostly good-natured flack from friends and neighbours about going organic, but they persevered - and in retrospect they're sure they made the right decision.
Bruce has become a strong advocate for organic farming and tells his story on Country Calendar this Saturday.
He believes New Zealand should take advantage of its isolation, make a widespread switch to organics and reap the rewards of selling into a lucrative niche market.
Other sites to view: