From hi-tech to farming

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 06:51 24/04/2013
Melvyn Goodall
Sven Herselman
Nuggety Creek owner and free range farmer Melvyn Goodall with some of his Wessex saddleback pigs.

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Melvyn Goodall was part of the British team at IBM in 1959 that built the world's first read-only memory for computers.

Today, he is farming alpacas and rare breed Wessex saddleback pigs at a property in the Wakamarina Valley. The two worlds couldn't seem further apart, but Melvyn and his wife Denyse wouldn't have it any other way.

"We love it out here," says Melvyn, who uses the most "free" form of free-range farming he can, with his animals allowed to roam just about wherever they want across 12 hectares of wild land.

The farm, Nuggety Creek, is something that happened almost unintentionally for the couple, who moved to Marlborough 16 years ago while Melvyn was consulting for an Australian company.

"I developed a seating system for the disabled that works in cars and worked for Chrysler in Canada, which is where I met Denyse," he says.

"The licence for the seat was bought by an Australian company so we decided to move, but didn't want to go to Australia. We also have family in Marlborough so we came here."

After living in the Marlborough Sounds for 11 years, they decided to move to a farm to breed dogs. That idea, however, never got off the ground with pigs and alpacas becoming the preferred stock.

Today they have a herd of alpacas - "Denyse's side of the farm" - and 50 pigs, which Melvyn manages. The Wessex saddleback breed, which dates back to the 17th century, was specifically chosen for its friendly nature and excellent taste, he says.

During the 1950s and 60s Melvyn was working on the cutting edge of computer design and was part of the team that created the smallest computer at the time. Today, he doesn't apply his training as a design engineer in electronics, but applies the same work ethic to his farming.

"It doesn't matter what you do so long as you do it well," he says.

Free-range farming is a strong passion and he feels that more should be done to promote it in the industry.

"I understand that there is a fine line between producing enough food for the country and the food being affordable, but these animals deserve to be treated properly. Pigs are phenomenally intelligent animals and to keep them in cages is totally wrong."

Melvyn names his pigs and gives them plenty of attention, speaking sweetly to them like a pet dog or cat. It seems difficult then to imagine that he can allow them to be slaughtered for the table, but like other farmers who dote on their animals, he has come to accept the circle of farm life.

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"I look after them and they look after me. It is sometimes difficult to see them go - some you get quite attached to and some not. At least they have been given the best life possible, far far better than in cage farming or even some farms that claim to be free-range," he says.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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