Agri-tourism: Innovative Future Farming

Sunday 19th May 2019

As the agricultural landscape rapidly changes, more and more farmers are looking to Agri-tourism to provide additional opportunities and income, and to highlight their efforts to an increasingly critical media and public.

Duncan and Allannah McRae run a number of Agri-tourism initiatives on their farm (Alpha Burn Station) as they 'own' Mt Roy! 
Duncan and Allannah McRae run a number of Agri-tourism initiatives on their farm (Alpha Burn Station) as they 'own' Mt Roy! 

The annual Year 12 Agribusiness Central Tour took place last week over three days, with a focus on Agri-tourism businesses. In addition to our yearly visits to Mt. Difficulty, the Cardrona Museum and Distillery and the Darling's Apple Orchard, the students were privileged to investigate a saffron and honey farm and visit the McRae's sheep/beef/deer and agri-tourism operation at Glendhu Bay.

Apples are 'floated' out of the bins and then picked up by the conveyer belt... — Image by: Craig Preston

Saffron-infused bread! — Image by: Craig Preston

The clear message that emerged from all the business owners was the fatal error of resting on your laurels in business. Mike Wright, Wrights honey (and dad of Fergus), told us how they thought honey would always be in high demand and sell for solid prices - until the schedule fell from $11/kg to $5/kg! It has forced them to think about the future and ensure that they are innovating with the added value they bring to their product sales and the need for diversifying the operation to include bee queen breeding and consultation services to other bee-keepers, for example.

Honey straight out of the hive! (Wrights Honey) — Image by: Craig Preston

The McRae's impressed the students with a very down-to-earth and honest appraisal of the farming business and how they are always on the lookout for new and innovative opportunities to bring in extra revenue for their business. Initiatives include a unique farm experience for overseas visitors that include a gourmet (yet homemade) lunch, a dog show and farm tour. Having Mt. Roy on one's property can also be handy! The McRae's are in business with the helicopter operators who need to land on Mt Roy so the married couples can get that perfect photo of Wanaka and surrounds with them in the forefront!

Upstanding young gentlemen at the Saffron Farm (Wynyard Saffron) — Image by: Craig Preston

A highlight this year at the apple orchard was the privilege of picking our own apples (albeit in the pouring rain!). The Darling's kindly allowed the pickers to keep their harvest and take it home. More impressive, though, was the sophistication of the pack-house with technology sorting apples by weight and size and colour. Quality requirements are stringent, to say the least, and essential to have one's product accepted in the overseas market.

Apple grading keenly observed... — Image by: Craig Preston
It helps to be taller to get the best apples... — Image by: Craig Preston

We were also privileged to have two guest speakers while on tour. Andy Ramsden shared about his innovative work in the wool space, that would hopefully lead to more significant gains in the future with regard to crossbred, high micron (>32) wool, while Jess Ralfe, from Foley Wines, provided some basic teaching around marketing, a topic the students have not had too much training in as yet. 

Add into the mix, a fabulous dinner out at Amigo's in Wanaka, and 23 of the coolest students one could hope to hang out with, and you have a highly successful 2019 Central Tour.

The joys of the pack house...
Iodine testing determines when apples are ready to pick...
Loving all the cool 'goodies' at Wynyard Saffron Farm