Organic farm to open

Last updated 09:49 17/10/2013
Ruth Healey and John Earney will demonstrate organic farming at Avonstour farm on Saturday, November 2.

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South Taranaki Star

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Organic farmers are having to find novel ways to keep their dreams afloat.

In east Taranaki, this has spurred one farm to open its gates to the public in a bid to create a niche market.

There are few ways for dedicated organic farmers Ruth Healey and John Earney to make a living.

Their natural farm, Avonstour, is focused solely on keeping rare breeds of common farm animals using organic practices.

They remain resolute.

"It's not an easy ride and if you do it for the money, forget it," Mr Earney said.

Opening up the farm for a day would generate needed cash while supporting other aspects of the business.

It would be easier to convert to more mainstream methods of farming, milking dairy cows and using chemicals to sustain productivity, but he said that would be devastating for the animal breeds they farmed.

"That's easy money, but it's not about the money."

Mr Earney regularly travels to New Plymouth to sell organic meat at markets. He supplements the couple's income by running workshops for farmers.

"We live off the farm but we live on nothing."

They use a work experience programme to provide much-needed labour.

The "wwoof" or "willing workers on organic farms" programme's travellers stay at their farm regularly, for as little as seven days or as long as 10 months.

Those travellers work to learn organic practices and are paid for their labour in food and hospitality.

Organic Farm NZ certification manager Dee Turner said Avonstour's owners suffered from the usual pitfalls of farming naturally.

Her job is to oversee registered organic farms in the Taranaki/Wanganui region.

"Organics isn't a quick way of making money."

She said everyone she dealt with was committed to organics and making lifestyle changes.

"I've had people that phone me wanting to become organically certified and they say things like ‘I'm not doing this for my children, I'm doing this for my grandchildren'," she said.

In addition to her certification work, Ms Turner taught classes in organic horticulture.

Over the past five years, interest in the courses has grown substantially.

She said that seemed to be because organic produce was expensive to buy.

Ms Turner applauded Mr Earney and Ms Healey for their pro-active attitude towards growing awareness.

"I think the more people that can actually walk through an organic farm, the better," she said.

Avonstour has been home to more than 50 donkey and Pitt Island, Dorsett Horn, Damara, Wiltshire and Arapawa Sheep, and Saddleback, European Wild, Large Black, Kunikuni and Canterbury Blue pigs for two decades.

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They keep ponies, hens and geese as well.

Ms Healey said she hoped the wider Taranaki community would take advantage of their open day and bring a picnic, study the animals and learn a little.

Avonstour is located in East Taranaki, near Douglas at 1170 Makuri Rd, and is open on Saturday, November 2 from 10am till 4pm. Adults entry costs $8 each and children $4 each.

- Taranaki

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