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The Family Farm in 2030

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Greg Hart11 April 2020

The sun sets on another beautiful autumn day at Mangarara – The Family Farm, near the thriving community of Elsthorpe in Hawke’s Bay.

It’s early April 2030 and I am reflecting on the last decade since the Covid-19 virus changed the world for good.

Feelings of massive gratitude flood my thoughts as I appreciate how fortunate I am to live in New Zealand, the country that has lead the world on a new regenerative path over this past decade. Every environmental, social and economic measurement is now showing improvement.

We can’t ignore the dark times of the mid 2020s. In many countries there has been tragic loss of life and social upheaval as globalisation unravelled and economies crashed, breaking the long supply chains that were unseen … until they weren’t there anymore.

Until this time we were oblivious of the role oil played in every part of our lives. Global tensions escalated as it became obvious that despite efforts to pump more oil from the earth, we were on the irreversible slide down the peak oil curve. With the benefit of hindsight we could see that oil production peaked in 2018. Fortunately, mass public rallies all around the world calling for peace prevented a disastrous world war.

Life has got a lot simpler. After the practice run we got from being isolated in our ‘bubbles’ for eight weeks back in 2020, many of us appreciated the slower pace of life and more quality time with our family. The lockdown bought communities together where we supported those who were struggling and shared what we had. Life simplified, but our connection to each other and the earth deepened and we felt much richer for it.

Changing the system

The ‘infinite growth’ economic model that required ever more consumption of finite resources was always destined to fail.

At Mangarara, we had been planning for a different future for a number of years; however, the Covid-19 virus acted as the catalyst that catapulted us into action.

Changing our farm debt from the interest-sucking Australian banks that took over $1,000 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand through the 20-teens was the first change we made.

Parents who had financed us into the farm remained our main backers, but we created a Limited Partnership which enabled a group of passionate change-makers to join The Family Farm team and invest in a better future. We developed the farm to become a model of Regenerative Agriculture and created a thriving ‘Agrihood’ with a diverse range of land based enterprises, which has enabled other families to live and generate their livelihoods off the once-traditional sheep and beef farm.

While the farm has remained profitable financially, this group understands that wealth is much more then dollars and cents. Financial profits are distributed to shareholders after ensuring the environment and the community around the farm are taken care of.

The widespread shift to Regenerative Agriculture since 2020 has been revolutionary. People began to understand that action on Climate Change was urgent. And the science community verified that sequestering carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil was our best hope to mitigate its worst effects. After years of being vilified New Zealand farmers rose to the challenge and became the heroes once more.

The old way of farming was no longer possible as supply chains broke down, with fertilizer and other chemicals from the other side of the planet no longer available. With the use of diverse pastures, wise crop rotation and inputs sourced locally to stimulate the soil microbes that maintain the health of the soil and plants, farms maintained their production while increasing their profitability.

Shortening the supply chain of farm inputs and becoming largely self-sufficient through effectively recycling nutrients has made the farm much more resilient to climate and market shocks that still occur.

Resilience has been built into the system by building carbon levels in the soil so it holds more water and acts like a sponge, allowing pastures to absorb more water faster during heavy rainfall events and to continue growing for longer in the dry Hawke’s Bay summers.

Now, in 2030, Mangarara sequesters four times more carbon than it emits (455% to be more precise). Our total farm emissions are 1,445 tonnes CO2e per year. However, we offset those emissions each year through our pasture management practices and our trees. Our soil alone sequesters 1,725 tonnes CO2e.

And this is augmented by our strategic planting of trees. Mangarara has been regenerating native forest both original and planted with community support, complemented by areas of exotic forestry planted before the ‘Great Reset’ of 2020. Since that time we have planted 400ha of the 470ha effective grazing area in a diverse mix of trees, creating a silvopasture that is sequestering approximately 4,000 tonnes CO2e per year. And our exotic forestry accounts for another 861 tonnes CO2e.

Our trees are providing shade and shelter for the animals that graze contentedly amongst them. The trees are cycling nutrients from deep in the soil profile, further reducing the need for fertiliser to be applied. They are reducing erosion while also providing the animals with a diverse diet, allowing them to self-medicate and resulting in excellent animal health. Trees create habitat for birds and insects and when combined with Holistic Grazing Management that has taller pastures with longer rest periods between grazing, the diverse insect populations increase and the whole eco-system really comes to life.

Building the ‘Agrihood’ Community

Like the family of shareholders who came on board to support the regenerative vision for the farm there is a large community of ‘careholders’ who have been supporting the farm by buying Mangarara farm produce from butcher shops in Hawke’s Bay and Auckland.

Over the years most of those people have visited the farm, either on one of our many farm open days or staying at our Eco Lodge. They understand the intimate connection between the health of the soil and environment and the nutrition of the food and ultimately the health of their family and society. This connection to the farm and the friendships built is one of the most rewarding outcomes of my farming career.

Like most other farms in Hawke’s Bay our surplus production is exported to the most discerning markets in the world, where a big premium is paid for the certified Regenerative farming system that it was grown in. As these techniques have been widely adopted throughout the country over the 2020s, New Zealand has become the first country in the world to be carbon positive, sequestering more than we emit.

New Zealand is a beacon of hope, showing that global warming can still be kept below the critical 1.5C level. Moreover, our rivers run clean again and the mental health of farmers is positive after going through a tough transition period.

In the distance I can hear the sound of children laughing as a family holidays at the Mangarara Eco Lodge. Families return year after year, so now 15 years after the lodge was opened young adults who came here in the early years are now returning with children of their own. They refer to Mangarara as ‘their farm’, which is what we wanted from the start. We were always only kaitiaki or guardians of this land for our brief time on earth.

Further out on the farm, the 20 hectares that was developed in the early 2020’s as an Agrihood is now providing community and meaningful lives for another 10 families. This group of pioneers came from a range of backgrounds with a diverse set of skills and experiences. The one thing they all had in common was the understanding of the need to live more lightly on the earth and the opportunity to play an active role in healing the earth and society. Their eco-friendly homes were built from macrocarpa milled on the farm and other local materials. And they are off-grid, powered by a network of renewable energy.

Unfortunately, many people in the western world were not prepared for empty supermarket shelves during the food crisis that began in 2022. Many went hungry and the fragility of the ‘just in time’ supermarket model was exposed. This resulted in many people shifting to the country where they could at least share the responsibility of feeding their families. The Agrihood at Mangarara is largely self-sufficient in food and also supplies a cooperative store at Elsthorpe and local farmers markets in the weekends.

The Agrihood has become a model that has been replicated and adapted to many farms all around New Zealand.

Various families have developed enterprises including producing dairy products from the small dairy, poultry and eggs production from free range chickens integrated into the sheep and beef farm. A wide variety of vegetables are produced which are also available to lodge guests, where many enjoy a fully catered farm-grown meal. There are people employed on the farm in administration, marketing, and IT roles.

Beauty is the basis of all we do, exemplified by the craftsmen living in ‘the hood’ milling timber and creating beautiful furniture from trees grown on the farm. When advertising for people to come and live at Mangarara we realised the opportunities to develop new businesses were limited only by our imagination. We are delighted to now have the Permaculture Education Centre, which includes a food forest, tree nursery, vegetable gardens, as well as an education and accommodation space.

As the daylight fades and the stars begin to appear in the clear sky, a sense of contentment comes over me. I reflect on my 63 year journey through life and the massive leap in consciousness humanity has made over the last 10 years.

Yes we can have peace and beauty on a healthy planet, but it all starts by finding that peace, beauty and abundance that is inside each and every one of us.

Greg Hart

12 April 2030

Greg Hart11 April 2020

17 responses to “The Family Farm in 2030”

  1. David Appleton says:

    Very, very profound Greg and to be hoped that matters evolve as you imagine for the alternative of ‘business as usual’ is so utterly grim. I admire your optimism.

    Are you, today, still marketing your produce direct to ordering people?

  2. B Foote says:

    I sincerely hope you are right Greg. But human nature being what it is , I fear you will be disappointed. The scramble for “recovery” will be all about recreating not inventing . There aren’t enough like you to go around .

  3. Robyn Hewetson says:

    Deeply moving. Where I lived in New Hampshire USA we began the first Community Supported Agriculture Farm based on Trauger Groh’s concept. That Farm is still going; the Temple Wilton Community Farm with about 118 member families who help support it. I wish we could have more of these enterprises so I could join one here.

  4. Love how you have taken many practices that are rarely used and shown how they can become mainstream.

  5. Ian says:

    I totally agree with this sentiment and only wish I was one of the relative few to own my own farm. It would be interesting to find out how many farms are in private ownership rather than owned by big business. For this to work (and I really want it to) we would need to reduce the population significantly. 5 million is not sustainable. Farms supporting a few hundred people each is manageable. What about all the support services like medical in particular. That does not work at farm level. Someone has to pay for that.
    We will still need to import some things that are essential for the farms to operate. We can last for a few years recycling and repurposing metal items but if you look at all the things used on farms to make them efficient, how many key items will still be working in 10-20 years.

  6. Dick Ryan says:

    Well done Greg. We in Wise Response are I’m sure right behind you

  7. Brett says:

    Count me in!

  8. John Shone says:

    Thank you Greg, your words of wisdom resonate deeply with me. I am launching two FoodBuilders FoodCircles very soon. One in Adelaide North, with FarmHubs @ Adelaide Plains and Adelaide Hills and a FoodHub @ Lionsgate Elizabeth SA (Former Holden Factory); and, the second in Melbourne West, with a FarmHub on the Moorabool Plains, Bellarine Peninsular and Torquay Hinterland; and, a FoodHub @ Fortek GEELONG (Former Ford Factory). Each FoodCircle providing FairShareholdings for 125 FoodBuilders + 200 FoodPartners + 3000 FoodGardeners + 5000 FoodSubscribers. FoodBuilders will live in UrbanFoodVillages in Intergenerational Cottages or Apartments. Learning and HealthCare are provided, along with FairShare FoodInfrastructure, ElectricFleet, RenewableEnergy and NutrientRegeneration. I was using the term AgriHood in early 2019, only to be told by Statutory Planners to drop the idea. I always rely on Peter Rabbit and Mr McGreggor to guide my innovation – there is always a whole in Mr McGreggor’s fence! May 12 April 2030 be 12 April 2020! Bless you, John Shone

  9. Aki Paipper says:

    Kia ora Greg and Whanau,

    When we respect and work with Papatuenuku as you have done life takes on a whole new meaning. Our health and well beingness is evident, we all thrive.
    Thank you for the heart you have put into seeing things as they should be, not for the few but for the many.

    I have great memories of Mangarara.

    Nga Mihinui

    Aki

  10. Ahh so beautiful to read this blog on a very stormy rainy day dazzled with rays of Sunshine in Karamea West coast.
    This is my dream come through and it Will be our future in NZ ,I have no doubt but vision for a better world like this..
    I’ll keep this as my reminder for myself as this is exactly how we will live from Today – 2030 and beyond.. With Gratitude and Aroha

  11. Dan Elderkamp says:

    Thanks, Greg – a beacon of hope in the darkness! Whichever way it goes post-lockdown, the world has changed dramatically in the last few weeks, and will, I think, never recover/return to what it was before – it’s been a giant wake-up call for everyone that we are not in control of our world, and that, if you’ll excuse the pun, something as small as a virus can burst our bubble in the way it has. May it become as you envisage for 2030 – kia kaha.

  12. Kay Bazzard says:

    Greg, Thank you for giving me/us permission to dream of a viable future. Your piece made me weep with hope, it is visionary.

  13. Ryan G says:

    Te toto o te tangata he kai, te oranga o te tangata he whenua.
    While food provides the blood in our veins, our health is drawn from the land.

  14. James Powrie says:

    Visionary Greg, especially since so much of what you describe here is already in place. Inspiring indeed to visit Mangarara mid-drought last month and see excellent pasture cover in place and the rich on-farm biodiversity and waterfowl on the horseshoe lake, the thriving livestock and smiling guests and families. 5 Stars, a credit to you and Rachel.

  15. Toddy says:

    Good for you Greg. Visionary. Thought of you last night watching Country Calendar in the Maniatoto.

  16. Stuart MacIntyre says:

    Great commitment you and Rachel have shown to this an exemplar model of what can be – positive economic, social and environmental outcomes all in one.

    See you in 2030 for a carbon sequestered steak!

  17. Greg, thank you for making your vision of the new normal so concrete, so clear, and so absolutely possible. We need more of this. You are already well on your way to manifesting this, and such an inspiration to so many.
    Beautifully written as well. Head and heart hand in hand. Tihe mauri ora!

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