Alongside tourism, farming is another major economic force in New Zealand. Lots of land,
water, sun and what seems like a good dose of old-style, honest and not-
as-industrialized approach to farming, made us appreciate it all the more.
Did you know? There are 31 million sheep in New Zealand. There are 4.4 million people in New Zealand. This means that there are 7 sheep per person. If you think that’s a lot, it is nothing compared to 30 years ago, when there were 22 sheep per person! (source – this amusing article by the New Zealand Department of Statistics). So yes, all the sheep jokes you may have heard about New Zealand are probably true, and we did see a lot of sheep, sometimes in unexpected places.
Grazing sheep and cows have the most beautiful grasslands (often overlooking the most amazing views), and the grass must grow like crazy with all the rain here. In many of the places we stayed we saw coops, where free chickens lay eggs. Unlike the USA’s “free range chicken” cynical definition, these chickens are really free and proud, and are surprisingly smart and funny animals to interact with. (N’s comment – their eggs are delicious, too :))
Some farmers sell their produce from the back of their trucks, and they are happy
to talk about the pesticides they use (mostly, they don’t) and the fertilizers
they add. Many times, a “fruit shop” is just a stall or a cabinet along the road,
with bagged produce and a price list. It’s the “honesty system” – take what you want, put the money into the box, and drive on. Other farmers participate in one of the numerous farmers markets taking place at least once a week.
Even the supermarkets here get something right – we regularly buy lettuces so fresh that their stem is still wet. Prices can be ridiculously expensive though, so we try to buy everything we can at the farmers market. Summer, fresh produce, reasonable prices, yum!
Sheep grazing while enjoying the awesome views of Otago Peninsula.
How did the sheep cross the road?
One of Cromwell’s famous roadside fruit and vegetable shops. This one, despite looking very fancy, had no sellers around and operated on the honesty system.
Another one of Cromwell’s shops. Prices are really low for produce that’s in season – in this case, stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines etc).
Just a few minutes drive from the wonderful Curio Bay in the Catlins – a local farm (back) and a local shop (front).
Every self respecting town has an annual A&P show (Agricultural &
Pastoral). We couldn’t time our travel schedule to match those, but luckily we finally experienced the show in Wanaka, which was a huge event in the area.
It was part a zoo
Part a beauty contest for gigantic Angus cows
part competitive animal farming
and part town festival with music, food and shopping. Notice the singer showing off a gigantic vegetable on stage – her entry to the gigantic vegetables competition.
In several regions of New Zealand a more lucrative agricultural industry is doing well – New Zealand wines are world famous (and rightly so, we’re glad to confirm after thorough research).
Many wineries and vineyards are open to visitors and offer a delightful experience of wine tasting, lunch, tour and a nap (I wish). This is Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand’s oldest winery, established in 1851.
Fishing is also quite popular, and in Westland we suspect there may be too much rain for almost any other type of agriculture. We got 150mm of rain in 24 hours – this is the annual rainfall in many other places in the world.
This truck is specializing in whitebait – a small fish (or a blend of several types of fish) usually fried and served as fritters, and of course coffee.