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Westland Profiles Farming In a Fishbowl

Photo Morrison farm 3 web edit
Photo Morrison Farm 1

With a long boundary on a major state highway, Bruce and Janice say they sometimes feel they are farming in a fishbowl, under constant scrutiny from curious passersby. Aware that perception counts and that one tourist’s impressions can easily find their way to Westland’s customers via the powerful medium of social media, the Morrison’s take a keen interest in making sure that their stock, the property and their sheds pass the visual inspection musters. “I even say to the guys in the shed,” Janice laughs, “no swearing, because you never know when you’ll be on video.” But don’t assume the Morrison’s find this an onerous challenge. As Bruce says; “Even if we weren’t on the main highway, we’d do it anyway. It’s very much part of how we like to operate.” 

Bruce has been farming for 39 years and says there is some good old fashioned economic sense behind having a farm where the animals are in good condition, the plant clean and tidy and the place looking well looked after. “Our philosophy on farming is that you should be proud of what you do. First impressions are important and even small initiatives can make a big difference. Looking after your land, farming to the conditions, feeding properly, maintaining good animal husbandry will all lead to better efficiency and increased milk production.” 

There’s a practical side to looking after the farm environment too, and not just because it helps the farm look well to passing photographers. “I was told by a well-known farmer from the Kowhitirangi Valley,” Bruce says, “that you should always leave land better than what it was when you started and I find those words to be pretty true. If we look after the place, it looks after us and there’ll be something to hand down for the future.” 

Janice has an even more pragmatic approach to sustainability and environmental responsibility. “You can spend a lot of energy trying to fight the rules and regulations, or you can put yourself in front of it and gain control so you’re doing things the way you want to, at your pace and within your budget.” It was just that sort of philosophy that saw the Morrison’s to some considerable expense to put in culverts and bridges over streams in their property and invest in an irrigation system as insurance against dry seasons-  “If you wait until some regulator tells you have to do it, it’s going to cost a lot more. By being a step ahead we manage our response to these pressures instead of having to react to them.” 

Bruce says people regularly comment on the look of the property and even bring visitors to see it. Bruce’s long experience means he’s often asked for advice which he’s happy to give because he says he learns as much as he passes on. He says it’s surprising how often folk who stop at the gates, or even wander onto the farm to say hello and ask if they can look around, are people who know a thing or two. “I’ve had some great conversations and some people have a background that gives their opinions some real weight I’ve been happy to take the praise but also benefit from their suggestions too!” In return, Bruce is especially keen on mentoring young and upcoming farmers in the district. “It’s good to see young people achieving well. The future of farming on the Coast lies with the young farmers of today.”

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