Creating Paradise in Hawkes Bay
The Harts : Back – Rachel and Greg – Front: – Emma, Bill and George
Meet the Harts
Greg and Rachel Hart own a 610 hectare (1500 acre) sheep and cattle station in Central Hawkes Bay, aptly named ‘The Family Farm.’ The name was given to the property as the Harts see traditional family values, stewardship and sacred trust of the land as of primary importance in honoring future generations. Greg was educated to a level of B Agr at Massey University working as a farm consultant, in livestock exports and as a grain marketer. Greg bought into his parents’ 610ha farm, Mangarara Station, in 1996. Rachel grew up in Hawkes Bay and holds the show together with her administrative and management skills in running a family and the day to day operational activities of a farm. Then there are the three children, George, Bill and Emma. George loves engaging with visitors to the farm and is an avid reader. Bill has a dry sense of humour and loves a good board game. Emma is the budding artist and chef of the family and loves getting stuck into and helping out around the farm whenever she can. Oh I forgot, Pipi the dog. Pipi loves helping out around the farm and is always ready for a day out on the Quad bike with Greg.
Unlike many conventional farms, where farmers see resources such as water, land and animals as commodities, to be converted and exploited for financial profit, the Harts see reverence for the land and all that goes with it. The Harts are busy creating paradise here on earth. Greg and Rachel are aware of the unfolding environmental catastrophe which is currently taking place around the globe. Species extinction, climate change and resource depletion are all issues the Harts know are eroding the ecological fabric of the planet. Greg suggests, “humanity is on the precipice of an unfolding tragedy which is potentially an evolutionary step. These events are giving us the opportunity to take an evolutionary leap in consciousness and become aware of the interconnectedness of all life which will lead to us live in harmony with our environment and each other. We are trying to play our part in co-creating heaven on earth!!”
Overlooking Horseshoe Bay
A Working Farm
Set in the idyllic rolling hills of Hawkes Bay, the property has been farmed since 1850. The property was one of the first stations in Hawke’s Bay to farm sheep. The farm originally stocked around 2700 sheep, 600 head of cattle, 18 milking cows, 25 Berkshire pigs and a few hundred chickens. Since changing to holistic grazing there has been a reduction in sheep numbers to approximately 1000 breeding ewes and their progeny.
The charismatic Joel Salatin whom has featured in numerous documentaries about farming and the food industry in the US visited the property in November 2010. Salatins visit helped inspire and motivate the Harts to introduce pigs and chickens to the operation. The chickens are housed in the “egg mobile” which is moved around the farm, providing the chooks access to the best possible range of pasture and forage. Off the back of Salatins visit Greg organised a series of workshops with Joel Salatin in 2013 at Wanaka and 2014 in Auckland.
Developing Regenerative Agriculture
Through extensive research and reading Greg and Rachel came to the realization that what we are doing as a species is completely against the natural systems which support us. The Harts are in the process of transitioning to a regenerative farming system that produces abundant healthy food without the need of imported additives, while sequestering carbon into the soil which is a major solution to climate change. This system uses nature as the guide and will have perennial tree crops integrated with shrubs and pasture and diverse animal species.
Like many Western countries New Zealand has been heavily deforested. The Maori started the deforestation by burning forests in search of Moa and to clear the land for agriculture. This was followed up centuries later when the white settlers came and continued with further logging and land clearance. Aware of the precipitous changes happening to the planet, the Harts realised they had to transition away from a disruptive model of agriculture towards a regenerative model of farming. Moving towards a model which restores the natural balance back to the land and ecosystems while developing diverse integrated regenerative farming systems has been the primary goal of the Hart family.
In conjunction with support from Air New Zealand which contributed to planting 85,000 native trees the Harts have been busy changing over to organic fertiliser, helping improve soil quality, planting thousands of trees and spreading the message of sustainability throughout their community. They have implemented Regenerative Agriculture principles and host RegenAG events and courses throughout the year in conjunction with their Eco Lodge and Education Centre. The Harts are big on sharing their experiences and learning with others and often open the farm to the public to enable others to reconnect to the earth. Greg and the family are just about to launch a crowd funding campaign with “Million Meters Streams” to raise funds to plant more trees around the lake.
Sharing the Experience – Eco Lodge
To help facilitate the learning and sharing experience, Greg and Rachel built a beautiful eco lodge (out of recycled materials) to accommodate visitors and guests who wish to experience the transition of the farm. Overlooking the tranquil Horseshoe Lake (which guests can kayak around) visitors can experience the abundant bird life that surrounds the property. The Harts believe people have become disconnected to the land and it is crucial for people to re-connect to the natural environment. Greg and Rachel believe the eco lodge will “help people reconnect with the land, and witness the transition of a traditional farm to one that is more sustainable and have an opportunity to intimately experience where good food comes from.” The Harts understand the importance of letting people share the experience of a working farm. Through seeing, touching and tasting and experiencing life on the farm people can begin to realise what it means to move towards true sustainability.
Please Help I’m an Addict
Unlike many other conventional farmers Greg is all too aware of the addiction modern agriculture has with fossil fuel, more specifically oil. The Harts understand that oil is a finite resource and has funded the expansion of economies over recent decades. While National Governments pursue a business as usual approach and hurtle toward the brick wall at full speed, Greg is cautious of the rhetoric of politicians and economists who forecast a boom in food demand that will drive New Zealand agriculture into the future. He suggests, “the continued stress on the world’s finite natural resources at a time when oil is becoming scarcer will ultimately have to impact global supply chains which the industrial food system is so dependent upon. As the population increases, demand for food will also increase at the same time the challenges on the supply side due to depletion of top soil, availability of water, climate change induced weather weirding, fossil fuel energy availability and the fertilisers that are required to produce food in todays industrial food system go past peak production. There will definitely be demand for New Zealand agriculture at some stage we have to step back inside natures limits either by disaster or by design. The carrying capacity for humans on earth has been exceeded and so one way or the other we need to reduce population and our levels of consumption. Continuing business as usual is simply a race to the bottom.”
Greg freely admits like most New Zealand farmers he is addicted to oil. Like all addicts he believes the first step is to admit to the addiction and then seek help. He is trying to wean himself and his operation off oil by making changes to the way he farms. He is focused on sequestering carbon into the soils by holistic and biological fertility management. He has stopped using aircraft to apply fertilizer and is trying to perfect holistic grazing management and getting animals to spread fertility around the hill paddocks by giving them free choice minerals. They changed their fertiliser use; switching from manufactured superphosphate to the natural reactive phosphate rock and stopped applying nitrogen He is also working to become largely self-sufficient in nutrient inputs. Greg reminds us that while oil is the lifeblood of the global economy we have to remember that humans have only had this addiction for a bit over 100 years, an infinitesimal time in the history of our species. So the habit can be broken, it is just a matter of how and when.
The Vege Patch
Free Range Chickens with Egg Mobile
Greg and Rachel were inspired by books, articles and documentaries and drew inspiration from Ronald Wright, Paul Hawken, Lester Brown, Charles Eisenstein, Eckhart Tolle and Joel Salatin, plus many others. Apart from their own research they took classes at the local High School, learning about permaculture and sustainable systems design. They also joined the Sustaining Hawke’s Bay Trust, and the Hastings Environment Centre which runs classes in environmental awareness, of which, Greg became a trustee. Local representatives of government from the green movement also helped educate and inspire the Harts to move toward more sustainable systems. Inspired, Greg organised a series of community meetings at the local Hotel on climate change, peak oil and the Transition Network that proposes ways towns can tackle these problems.
The Mangarara Family Farm vision has four parts which are models for other farmers:
- To become a model of regenerative agriculture producing healthy and nutrient rich food
- To balance the relationship between nature and production agriculture by planting native and food producing trees, to restore ecosystems and to consider the balance in all we do
- To open the gate and share the farms resources to build a community model to show what is possible when we work co-operatively with each other and nature
- To develop an education and eco accommodation centre as a home for regenerative agriculture and a growing family farm community
The Family Farm provides a model for others to emulate, not only throughout New Zealand, but the world. The commitment made by taking this evolutionary leap of faith outside conventional norms is brave, bold and desperately needed in a world of mediocracy and contrived value. Placing the environment and the care of the planet above the profit motive is the first step in moving towards ecological balance and restoring paradise.
The Harts journey of redefining paradise and co-creating with nature in restoring balance is not only necessary, but essential for the sustainability of the planet. While the Family Farm prides itself on building healthy soils, regenerating ecosystems, building a strong resilient community, caring for all animals with respect, following permaculture principles of earth care, people care, fair share, it also touches on something much deeper. The Harts philosophy of connection with nature addresses the essence of our planetary problems. It encompasses examining our spirituality and grace for all life on earth.
Looking Forward with Optimism
Having been fortunate enough to spend a few days with the Harts to see the operation in practice, it is apparent this is no ordinary farm. There is love, tenderness and a respect for every animal and being on the property. The Harts are generous, kind and loving people and see themselves in a privileged position. With this privilege comes the responsibility to provide a sustainable future for generations to come. To further progress this transition to sustainable abundance, the Harts are exploring alternatives to restructure “ownership” to “stewardship”. They are doing this by exploring various community land trusts models from around the world. While Greg understands the challenges ahead, he is an eternal optimist. He believes that humans can still choose the alternative road, but the intersection is approaching fast. The solutions are already here and the key to make it happen is inside our hearts. Greg sees a wonderful opportunity to reconnect to nature and the oneness of life.
Greg, Rachel and Family invite you all to become friends and sign up to “Family Farm Members” at https://www.mangarara.co.nz/join-the-family/ For more information on the Family Farm and the Eco Lodge visit: http://thefamilyfarm.co.nz/ http://www.mangarara.co.nz/