Exploring Farm Diversification: The Matahuru Valley Walk
In the heart of New Zealand’s North Waikato, Kirsten and Ian, along with their children Connor and Lucy, have not only embraced the legacy of sheep and beef farming but have also embarked on a new adventure – the Matahuru Valley Walk, a private, fully-catered, self-led walking experience. Their story is a testament to the power of diversification, proving that innovation and teamwork can open new doors and revitalise farming communities. If you’re considering your own diversification, take a cue from Kirsten and Ian: think outside the farming square, utilise local resources, and trust in your ability to make it happen. It’s the entrepreneurial spirit that keeps our farming communities thriving!
Left to right: Sian, Mary, and Kirsten.
What drove your decision to explore new opportunities beyond traditional farming?
At a catchment group before Covid we really got to know a few of our lovely neighbours Sian and Mary. Between us we decided we needed to diversify, to explore different income streams, to better utilise what other resources we had around us. So we decided to expand our accommodation business and showcase our beautiful valley, that is how the Matahuru Valley Walk evolved. Based in Waikato, we are situated in the centre of the golden triangle, Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga.
Could you describe the impact diversification has had on your farm and community?
Diversification has enabled different streams of income to be incorporated into our farming business, helping to keep us viable in difficult times. We now farm with an increased confidence in our future and that of our children. We have the responsibility to showcase our farms, our environmental practices, riparian plantings, sustainability, introducing the public to farm life in rural NZ all by way of the Matahuru Valley Walk. We use and promote local products as much as possible with our catering and use of sustainable products and generally have the backing of the valley residents and wider community to promote country life, especially the picturesque Matahuru Valley. This enterprise has literally ‘put our district on the map’ and the interest and positivity from our wider community has been heartening.
In what ways has diversifying your business brought joy and fulfillment to your life?
Getting to know two of my neighbours, working as a team, trusting our instincts and feeding off each other’s enthusiasm and positivity to produce a successful business has been such an inspiring experience, showing us ‘we can do it’. The ability to see the big picture, do most things ourselves with little help, using our varying strengths and talents has resulted in full bookings pre Christmas with bookings on track post Christmas till the end of our Walk season in April. We have all gained an enormous amount of satisfaction and achievement from our efforts to date and we have all enjoyed meeting all our walkers and listening to and reading their positive comments.
What advice would you give to other farmers considering diversification?
As interest rates are at a peak for our generation, it is a great way to help get through the next few years. We have been lucky as I work off farm, from home which has enabled us to take on varying forms of diversification including the Matahuru Valley Walk. We would advise all farmers who are able, to look around, think outside the ‘farming square’ for ways to supplement and diversify their income, utilising what they perhaps have at their back door. It may not be big at the start but it will eventually grow as new ideas and opportunities present themselves. Explore the different diversification options other farmers throughout NZ have embraced and take the lead from what you see and read. You too can do it.
How has the Farm Focus software helped you with your farm diversification?
As we have a few different parts of our business, we have used different codes for different parts of our business and when we go to run reports this is easy as we can find the information we need.
Matahuru Valley Walk serves as a powerful testament to the transformative potential of diversification in farming. Their story illuminates how diversification can infuse new life into both the farming business and the surrounding community, creating alternate revenue streams that bolster resilience in challenging times. Diversification can be the key to not just surviving, but thriving in an ever-evolving agricultural landscape.