High country challenges

Deborah Paterson - "I left my heart in the high country - Ka Roimata Whenua, the land of my hapū."

Deborah Paterson – “I left my heart in the high country – Ka Roimata Whenua, the land of my hapū.”

Having the opportunity to stay on the Ngāi Tahu Farming high country stations in Whakatipu has been a huge plus for farming student Deborah Paterson and she is quick to recommend it for anyone learning about farming.

“As part of the Whenua Kura and Diploma in Farm Management at Lincoln University,  we have a number of practical work assignments to complete. Mine have all been done on Ngāi Tahu Farms in dairy and beef.

“This was my best opportunity to look at sheep and the challenges of high country farming,” Deborah says.

“I’d been studying high country agriculture and this was my best chance to live the life.”

Deborah spent two weeks on the Routeburn, Greenstone and Elfin Bay stations, which are all under the management of Stu and Anne Percy.

During her time on the stations, Deborah was involved in feeding out to stock, moving sheep to and from the shearing shed for crutching, vaccinating cattle for animal health, repairing fences, clearing stock tracks after winter damage and caring for the stations’ horses.

“The experience was of immense value to me. It was a chance to put my technical knowledge into practice and experience first-hand, the challenges of farming in high country locations. Those challenges aside, the place has huge potential and Stu and his team do an amazing job of farming such a huge operation,” she says.

“If you’re doing your Diploma in Farm Management and have a hankering for the high country, then you need to work there and see the experience and the fortitude required to farm in this beautiful but unforgiving environment.

“For me, this was a spiritual and personal journey too. I bought a painting of this region in 1982 without knowing where it had been painted. It has travelled with me ever since and as I drove into the stations, I looked out at the view and realised that ‘this was my painting.’ I immediately felt at home and I would love to have more time there if the chance arises – I’ll definitely be applying for any jobs there, should the opportunity arise in the future

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