Family farms the bedrock of our agriculture

21:27, Mar 21 2014
Rai Valley Show 14
Matthew Fox, 9, from Rai Valley with his winning jersey calf called Toffee. It won the under nine calf section.

In every Marlborough valley and on the plains, there are family-owned and operated farms.

I can think of an impressive list of family names associated with agriculture here for more than 100 years - names woven into the history and ongoing prosperity of this province.

Take a closer look at road names next time you travel in rural Marlborough.

Cheese makers
Farm produce: A steer observes Rai Valley cheese makers, from left, Elizabeth Della Bosca, Faye Leov and Liz Downey display their goods.

See how many are attributed to local families.

Is family-based farming still valuable and respected? Or should we embrace the concept, and increasing reality, of multinationals, faceless corporates and finance companies owning the farms and controlling local production?

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) stands for working with people on the land and in the rural communities which surround them. It was first to initiate a nationwide programme to support the United Nations 2014 International Year of Family Farming - a timely opportunity to celebrate dedication and contribution to farming past, present and into a bright future.


The United Nations' aim is to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder production by focusing world attention on its role in eradicating hunger, providing food security and managing natural resources for the benefit of all.

The goal of the 2014 IYFF is to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policy globally - and identify efficient ways to support family farmers.

The RWNZ project in Marlborough will be presented at Rai Valley's Carluke Domain on Sunday, March 30, and is open to everyone. You don't have to be a farmer to come along. Interest in land use, families, animals, food and personal wellbeing is more than enough to take part.

The programme includes a nod to history, an art competition, learning opportunities, fun activities, entertainment addresses these questions: What might the future of farming look like? Who should be in control of that future?

At RWNZ we see a renewed interest in the land by a wide range of people. Schoolchildren want to learn more about growing food in gardens. Teenagers see a future in skilled work with animals, crops and agricultural technology. Young people in the farming "family" work hard for a chance to successfully transition to owning a farm business.

Citizens from all walks of life are thinking about what they can do to help improve water quality, food safety and natural resources - taking a partnership approach rather than throwing rocks at "the problem".

Marlborough families on the land learn quickly and adapt to change. They have to, to still be there.

So, do you want a skilled, experienced local farmer to grow your food?

If yes - show it by supporting the local 2014 International Year of Family Farming event, Rai Valley, March 30.

Liz Evans is a partner in a family farm and past national president of Rural Women New Zealand

The Marlborough Express