Sophie: Middlehurst Station is such a special place. It has an incredible energy about it. To be able to bring that into our work, and to live and breathe it every day, is the best. Being able to build relationships with restaurants and to see the care that chefs put into finishing the product, and to get feedback from direct-to-consumer customers – that’s why we do it. When repeat orders come through, or when people get in touch to ask a question about our supply chain, that’s our “why.” We want people asking questions of their producers. The more questions everyone asks, the better the whole system’s going to be in the end.
It’s also about having the flexibility to raise a family. It definitely has its challenges, but I’m grateful that we’re able to make that happen. One of the great things about being a small family business is that we can have really open, honest and frank discussions, but then we can revert back to family mode really quickly as well. It's just a really positive and productive working environment. People always say never work with your family, but we find it’s quite the opposite!
Working with Lucy is just so easy. We talk all the time. Every day we’ll be talking, texting and keeping each other up to date. We try to have a day a week where we work together in person, and we’ll just jump on a video call if we need to work on a project together. Lucy loves to get things done – let’s get things moving! I’m a little more detailed and can hold up the process by making sure that everything is perfect. I think that balance gets quite a good result in the middle. In business, it’s always up and down. Some moments are harder than others and I think the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Awards, where you get recognised for what you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve – that really keeps you going. As you get out there more, it just leads to more opportunities.
Lucy: I love being part of the family business. We’re so grateful for the opportunity that Mum and Dad have given us, letting us take them on this wild ride. Our family always dreamed of supplying our lamb as our own finished product. At the heart of what we want to achieve is a direct connection with the end consumer. We really thought we owed it to ourselves and our customers to provide complete traceability from start to finish. Wholesale is a new journey for us. It’s been interesting noticing the shift in people going out and spending money in restaurants and not as much on online grocery orders. We have some great relationships with our chefs – we love telling them about our story so they can pass it on to their customers.
We care deeply for the land at Middlehurst Station. At the moment, we’re working on a few initiatives: we’ve created some QEII covenants to protect and enhance the natural sites, like the big tōtara trees that make you feel like you’re in the Marlborough Sounds, when really you’re in the high country. We’re protecting our natural wetlands as well, fencing them off from animals so that they can regenerate. It doesn’t take long once it’s all fenced off for them to start coming alive again.
Sustainability is overwhelming for a lot of farmers because there’s so much to it. We refer to it as, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” We have to start somewhere and work towards the bigger goals – I think we just need to be realistic and break them down so we’re able to achieve them.
The Beef + Lamb New Zealand Awards definitely give you the validation that you’re on the right track, that you can do it, and that there are people backing and supporting you. It helped us meet other like-minded people; it’s really important as young females in a male-dominated industry that we do put ourselves out there. I always encourage other young people in the agricultural industry because I think it’s exciting to be part of. Even though it can be challenging at times, I think there is a lot of innovation out there. The awards are an amazing event to get you thinking, to get you motivated about how you can be better, how you can be different.
As a new business we are going to make mistakes, so one of our big things is to make the mistake, but just make sure you learn from it. When you’re making mistakes, you’re learning. I quite like the quote: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
Entries are open for the 2023 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Awards: nominate a person making a difference to this country’s red meat sector. Visit beeflambnz.com for more information.
This story features in our Takurua Winter 2023 Edition.
I have always admired images of farming mums – the ones with stoic women standing over drafting gates with toddlers layered up in backpacks or sweeping shearing boards with babies
Born and raised in Mangaweka, Alison Dorrian, 73, and her husband, Henry, worked to protect its bush and wildlife while raising their six children.
Kylie loves to share the wonders of the Aotearoa bush through her two businesses, Nourish & Nosh Tours and The Bush Boardroom.
This savvy stylist and designer walks Shepherdess through a day in her life from her vintage-inspired homewares and furniture shop in Tarras.