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The Farming Fast Five: Marcus White

The Farming Fast Five: Marcus White
Hurunui farmer, Marcus White. 

We ask farmers five quick-fire questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Here is what 2023 Tasman Young Farmers Regional Chairman Award winner, Marcus White, had to say.

1. What did your journey into farming look like?

My farming career started as a 6-year-old gate open during school holidays, helping with tailing or pushing sheep up at an older guy's near Waikari, as I am not off a farm.

Throw in some orphan lambs, Country Calendar, and reading books about the high country, and I was hooked on farming, and it stuck.

I've loved every step and wouldn't change it for the world.

I've also had some inspirational local guys who have pushed me to where I need to be and always given me a helping hand and advice.

I work for the best employers I have ever worked for on Mt Benger in Hawarden, North Canterbury.

They are very supportive and always want you to be the best version of yourself, both farming and personally.

These things have led to me running a Dorset Down stud on my lease blocks around the area for the last six years, with 60 ewes plus 30 odd commercial ewes and rams that'll be sold.

2. Tell us a little bit about your farming operation.

We are a 2800-hectare breeder/finishing farm in Hawarden North Canterbury, ranging from irrigated flats to rolling hills to steep hill country.

We take everything through to the works, so summer is busy with lambs, and winter is busy with r2 cattle.

We currently run around Angus Hereford Shorthorn cross 400 breeding cows, which is a great three-way cross for us.

We also run 5,700 Romney Longdown crossbred ewes, 2100 hoggets and 200 R2 heifers and 204 R2 steers which will be finished over the winter and sold.

There are currently 650 sale lambs left on farm that will be sold once they are up to weight.

Most summers, there are about 9,500 lambs.

We're a self-contained unit apart from the odd outside contractor for silage and wrapping.

Over the winter, we have fodder beet and kale in for the R2 cattle, and upright grass for hoggets.

Over summer, we have leafy turnip and lucerne on the flats for finishing our lambs.

3. What challenges have you faced in your farming business, and how have you tackled those challenges?

My first two years out of school were the last bad drought in North Canterbury, so it was a tough start and insight into farming.

You must plan as best you can, be proactive in your approach to the situation and look for the little milestones to get you through the hard times.

Farmers are resilient and passionate about what they do.

Although there are hard times, it only takes a good day of saving a lamb's life or mustering on a beautiful clear morning with the sunrise to remember the reason you do it.

It's a challenge, but there are always learnings, positives, and things you can reflect on and change for next time.

4. What has been a major highlight for you in your farming journey?

The opportunity to have my own lease blocks outside of work to grow my own stud and commercial ewes to get into a farm of our own someday.

At 16, I was running 150 ewes plus my stud ewes.

I’ve just finished doing Level 5 Primary ITO.

I enjoyed doing the theory side to support the practical side of things.

I've also been the chair of the Hurunui Young Farmers for the last seven years, which I've loved, although it's been hard with less than three members to a good core group of 14.I recently won the Tasman Regional Chairman's award, which was a great surprise and honour for my hard work for the club and the community.

I won the Tasman Regional Service award two years ago for my service to the Young Farmers.

My fiancé Ally and I are the junior vice chair of the Hawarden A&P show, which we've enjoyed being part of and bringing together a great community event.

I love the rural farming community and how a tight-knit community is always there to support and help each other when needed.

5. What advice would you have for the next generation of farmers?

Enjoy every day and take learnings from the hard times.

Never be afraid to ask questions if you don't know.

The more you ask, the more knowledge you have, which will help you to become a better farmer and person.

Do the core things right and to the best of your abilities.

If you make a mistake, learn from it.

Don't beat yourself up, as guys who have been farming for 50 years still make mistakes.

Enjoy it, have fun and get stuck into it.

It's a fantastic lifestyle, leading you down some great paths and meeting some great people along the way.

I wouldn't change it for an office job, even on a -8 frost or a snowy day.

  • By Claire Inkson