Special Hyundai Country Calendar Episode 3
Country Calendar Special - Episode 3, screening 27 October at 7.30pm on TV ONE:
The third in a special series of 10 one-hour programmes in which we revisit some of our favourite recent stories.
In this episode we meet people working off-farm.
Callum Hughes has done what many people dream about - turned a favourite hobby into a successful business.
The Southland entrepreneur hunts and processes wild game, including venison, hare, rabbit, goat and wild pork, and sells it to restaurants around the country.
"Enjoying what you do is a big part of it," says Callum, "but if you know and believe in your product then that shows through in the end result."
Callum, a former police officer, grew up on a farm in South Otago where hunting was a regular activity.
He'd always wanted to start his own business and one night he tossed ideas around over a few whiskies with his father, brothers, and friend and chopper pilot Jeff Shanks, in a remote hut in the Fiordland National Park.
Callum's suggestion that he could hunt deer and supply it to restaurants got an enthusiastic response from the group.
Seven years on, the idea has become a reality. Fare Game is a busy family business which owns two refrigerated trucks and a purpose-built meat processing plant in Invercargill, and employs four staff.
Restaurants in the Southern Lakes region take the bulk of Fare Game's meat but the company also supplies outlets in Christchurch, Wellington and as far north as Whangarei.
Miles Better Pies in Te Anau is one of Callum's long-time customers.
"He's probably our biggest consumer of diced venison," says Callum. "All he makes is pies and sells them through one shop in Te Anau where 45-seater buses pull up all day long, tourists pile out and everyone buys a venison pie. In one day he might use 30 to 40 kilograms of venison.
"Miles just keeps pumping out those pies," laughs
Deer are mostly hunted from helicopters in Fiordland or on farmland around the Southern Lakes. Refrigerated trucks are crucial to the business - after an animal is shot, it can safely be left in one for up to 96 hours before reaching the processing plant.
When the hunting's good, Callum arrives back in town with a truck full of venison ready for processing.
Food safety requirements are rigorous and meat inspectors check every deer and a large sample of the rabbits and hares.
Traceability is also important. When a deer is shot, it is tagged and Callum takes a GPS reference of the location. The information remains with the deer right through to the moment when it is served in a restaurant, meaning that a Queenstown diner can order Mt Nicholas fallow rack and see the area their meal came from out the window.
One downside of the job is that it often takes Callum away from home and his young children -Lucia, who is three, and Zac, six months.
His wife Debbie says while the absences are hard, the business also provides a lot of flexibility and Callum can down tools and take a break if he needs to.
But Callum's choice of activity when he's on holiday shows how much he loves his job.
"I had a few days off last month," says Callum, "so I got some mates together and went hunting!"
To find out more about Callum's business:
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A Bird In The Hand
Warwick Wilson faces unique challenges sustaining the breeding stock on his 400 hectare farm in Coromandel.
The bulk of Warwick's land at Waitaia Bay is devoted to providing a natural environment for North Island brown kiwi, one of five species of the indigenous bird.
Each breeding pair needs about 29 hectares of land. Warwick's farm currently supports around 100 pairs and 100 juveniles and is at half its carrying capacity for kiwi.
When he bought the farm 45 years ago, Warwick was advised to clear the land and graze 3,000 wethers.
But prices for lamb and wool were low at the time. Instead, Warwick retained the stands of original, native forest, planted 100 hectares in pines, left the rest of the farm as it was, and took regular holidays at the farm's beaches.
Gradually Warwick was seduced by the calls of kiwi and other native birds in the forest and, in 1995, welcomed the chance to become part of Project Kiwi Trust, a community initiative to protect kiwi.
Today the project has two co-managers working and living at Waitaia Bay. Paula and Jon Williams applied for the job more than two years ago and kiwi numbers have grown steadily since their arrival.
Like other farmers, they put a lot of effort into the welfare of creatures in their care. Jon removes eggs from kiwi nests and sends them away for a few months to be incubated, hatched and reared into young juveniles. When they are big enough to survive on their own, the young birds return to Waitaia Bay and are released back into the wild.
Commitment to pest control is central to the success of the project because kiwi and their habitat are at risk from a wide range of animals including rats, stoats, weasels, feral cats, hedgehogs, possums and dogs.
Warwick also has a flock of around 100 sheep that graze a coastal firebreak to protect his bush from careless boaties.
When Warwick thinks back to the advice he received in 1968 to turn his property into a sheep farm, he laughs - today Waitaia Bay has three times as many kiwi as sheep.
For more information:
Many New Zealanders associate the term logging with harvesting pine plantations but, in the backblocks of Taranaki, a resourceful couple in their late 60s is logging a patch of native trees.
In 1995, Ross and Heather Vivian bought 600 hectares covered in native bush 60 kilometres inland from Eltham in southeastern Taranaki.
Ross had hunted in the area 40 years earlier and his initial idea was to use the block for recreational hunting. There were no tracks when Ross and Heather first moved on to the land and Heather says her first few trips to the property weren't promising. The farm was treacherous in the wet and, initially, she wanted Ross to put the place back on the market.
A short time later, however, the couple was approached with an offer to log rimu trees on the block. They turned it down but started researching the viability of logging the trees themselves.
Historically, native timber such as rimu, matai and kauri was widely used as building material in New Zealand with large tracts of bush cut down by teams of men using axes, pit-saws and bullocks.
Until the early 1990s, owners of private forests were entitled to fell trees on their land. In 1993, however, the Forests Act was amended and controls were placed on milling and exporting timber from indigenous forests.
Today, private forest owners who want to log their own native trees must have a sustainable forestry management permit or have filed a sustainable forestry management plan with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).
Around 50,000 hectares of indigenous forest is currently managed under nearly 50 management plans and about 400 permits are registered at any one time.
MAF requirements around logging native timber are stringent. Management plans must include an inventory of the mature trees on owners' land and measurements and GPS coordinates for those with potential to be logged.
The Vivians' portable mill is registered with MAF and the authority also keeps a record of which trees are milled and carries out audits.
Ross and Heather are permitted to cut down two or three trees a year and required to plant four native tree seedlings for each one felled.
Milling is done on-site and they use a helicopter to transport pallets of stacked and graded timber about five kilometers to the road.
Ross and Heather mostly process rimu which can fetch up to $2500 a cubic metre. The couple's timber is sent south to Wanganui where it is turned into furniture.
What doesn't make the grade isn't wasted - Heather is a keen wood turner and crafts off-cut blocks on her lathe at home.
Their farm is a lot more accessible than it was in the early days. Over the years, they have spent hours tidying up farm tracks using two vintage bulldozers they own. Ross has also added extra rear tyres to the vehicles they use on the property to make them safer.
For more about management of indigenous forests: