Wairarapa Eco Farms was born out of a desire to produce quality food with ecological integrity. The original farm is situated on the Tauherenikau Plains in South Wairarapa. The windswept and occasionally very dry plain, with its stony soil, lends itself to quality olive production. We bought an empty patch of land in 1996 and with our strong ecological principles, we planted windbreaks and olive trees, built up the soil, and designed and built our alternative green home. The farm has grown from bare paddocks into a secluded oasis amidst a grass desert and possesses the vitality we had dreamt of.
In 2009 we took on a new challenge, with the organic conversion of a large abandoned commercial orchard in Masterton. The orchard possessed a wonderful combination of pip and stone fruit, and although lifeless when we took over, we could see the potential to grow wonderful delicious and healthy fruit and vegetables. It gave us the opportunity to grow a wider variety of crops for another project in the making: our own Community Supported Agriculture programme. Now we have arrived at a point where this property also is in harmony with nature.
We made the choice to grow organically – or as we like to call it, “ecologically” – when we were students at our Dutch university and dreaming of doing our part in making the world a better place. The Wairarapa Eco Farm was first Demeter certified in 2000 and the real quality of the fruits and veggies we grow here is very important to us. Starting from the ground up, we work towards a balanced and living soil. We build health and vitality into what we grow by using seaweed blends, compost, biodynamics, and, of course, love for what we do. Ultimately, we harvest quality produce at its peak and deliver it garden fresh, because flavour and freshness make healthy eating choices a pleasure.
Over the years, we have developed farming systems targeted at growing good healthy crops with great nutritional value, while at the same time reversing the trends of genetic erosion, environmental degradation and the externalisation of costs.
Who will be growing your food...
Wairarapa Eco Farm is very much a team effort of husband and wife Frank and Josje and their kids Sanne (21), Renske (19), Femke (10) and Wietse (7). Frank and Josje both studied tropical agriculture in the Netherlands before venturing to green, clean New Zealand, where they completed their post graduate studies at Massey University.
When the olive trees and the oldest girls were still young, Frank ran his own sustainable agriculture consultancy service and aided conventional farmers and orchardists in making the organic change. He taught organics NZQA courses over the lower North Island, advised the Wellington Regional and City Council on sustainability matters and took on a wonderful opportunity to become the New Zealand Organics Research Advisor for Organic Aotearoa NZ (OANZ). In 2009 Frank and Josje became full-time farmers when they took on the Masterton orchard, and they have not looked back since, fully enjoying the work, the community and most of all the passion that living and working with nature and healthy agriculture brings!
Why Community Supported Agriculture?
In the past, we’ve marketed to organic wholesalers and retailers and for three years we committed our Saturday mornings to the Hill Street Farmers Market in Thorndon, Wellington. The farmers market gave us a chance for a “face to face” relationship with the people who buy and eat our food. It was inspiring for us to see, first hand, the appreciation of our customers, who, in turn, also made that first-hand connection to us. CSA has that same spirit but opens up even more possibilities. With CSA, members become friends/allies of the farm by the simple act of eating.
By simply sharing in the harvest, members provide a dependable market for the farm's production. They give us, their farmer, the opportunity to care for the land while growing the highest quality food for them. In this way, members also support the land and the environment through the beneficial practices of their farmer.
The Community Owned Chicken
In days long gone every farm or region had its own chicken breed. They were strong and resilient through their genetics with the farm’s conditions at hand. They were less productive but produced eggs by consuming ‘farm waste’ and in essence the eggs were ‘free’.
These days, commercial breeding has developed in such a way that there only a few (that is 2) breeds left for commercial egg production and 1 for meat. These birds have different genetics far removed from the old breeds and hence rely on concentrated food and additives to keep them healthy in their very ‘controlled manmade environment’. After trialing those here on the farm over the last couple of years we HAVE COME BACK to the conclusion that these hybridized and commercial chickens are not fit for our farming system.
They are weak ‘disposable’ animals only meant to last a short period of time and give it their all and more. They are either very light (egg laying) or become extremely heavy (meat) in a too short period of time. Eating eggs or meat from these birds does not give you the satisfaction of ‘slowly’ produced food. The meat birds grow ready for slaughter in an amazingly short period of 8 weeks time!!! They do that in such a way that they cannot stand on their feet or walk properly around if you wanted to keep them for longer and they need nasty additives in their food to keep them alive. On top of this, in one system (egg) all the one day males are killed, and in the order production system (meat) all the one day old females are killed as they are not good enough for their role as either a meat bird (does not get heavy enough fast) or egg producer (does not lay enough eggs over a 360 day period).
Just like our aim was when we started here almost 20 years ago, we like to produce quality food, including chickens and eggs that are suited to the Wairarapa Eco Farm’s philosophy of a resilient mixed farm build on agro-ecological principles. One that is kind to animals and to the soil they live on, that produces eggs and meat that are high in quality and nutrient dense (not a bag full of water), and most of all not produced with excessive amounts of bought in food and additives, be they hormones, vitamins, antibiotics etc.!
So we breed our own. By breeding birds that lay a good amount of eggs and have great meat properties we do not have to kill off one day old chicks as we have a use for both males and females. The other consequence is that we can do without the additives and concentrates as the birds develop better immune systems and resilience. The down site is that the rooster takes longer to mature (extra cost in food) and the hens are less reliable in egg production. Another plus is that we spend less money on buying in stuff and close the internal nutrient and energy cycle. To summarize WE LOSE QUANTITY; less meat and eggs but WE GAIN QUALITY, good firm meat with better omega levels and other physiological active substances. The same goes up for the eggs: better omega levels and higher amounts of other physiological active substance.
We started this project in 2013 and with our recently bought incubator, and some chickens going broody over summer, we have now clutches of young chicks wandering about as well as new chickens going to lay. This way we can slowly build up the quantity of chickens to an optimum number for our set-up, as opposed to factory farming that is ruled by economic efficiency, not ecological validity. Overtime, this is going to create another meaningful job on the farm and within our community.
We are building up a relatively small flock of chickens, avoiding the need to rely on an intensive hatchery model of chick rearing and creating a more suitable breed for our environment, which might be laying fewer eggs but will be less dependent on bought-in, expensive (organic) feed concentrates. It will take longer to raise the chickens and so we will make them available for purchase at point of laying (22-24 weeks).
Introducing the Community Owned Chicken (COC), an adoption program for chickens.
Now to you. By adopting your chicken, you are able to share in the life and well-being of the animals and develop a bond between the farm and you, our members (the consumers). You own the chicken and we take care (manage) of it for you here on the farm, giving it a wonderful free roaming environment and good food. In return we send you back the eggs from your chicken.
How will our COC work?
You buy your chicken ($10 each). For ca $200 per year ($4/week) we look after your chicken and in return we give it the environment it deserves. We predict that your chicken will lay around 6 eggs per week, which we will return to you on a weekly basis. We will manage the chickens according to agro-ecological principles, and they will have a secure inside house (movable chicken tractors), in addition to plenty of room to range outside in our olive groves.
The chickens will keep their natural look - we will not de-beak or cut their wings - and will be guarded by our guard dogs. Practically this means pasture fed, low density free ranged in our olive grove and predominantly fed food from our farm or locally sourced. This would mean that all their food is ecologically sound and the bulk of their food is organic certified.
Their diet will consist out of any protein and herbs they find in our organic olive grove, as well as a top up of local grains, corn and wheat. In our experience (due to constraints of the NZ organic poultry sector) there is lack of certainty around continuity of supply for certified organic chook food. We therefor decided that it would be clearer to take the chickens out of certification; they are not certified organic. Although unable to guarantee certified organic feed, we are able to guarantee that they are unbeaked, and grow up without vaccinations, antibiotics or GE feed. This is a big plus considering NZ certified organic farmers can buy conventional point of lay chickens (16 weeks old) for their organic business.
How to Register your Interest?
Send us a NEW email with COC Chicken in the subject line after which we will allocate you a chicken (max 2 per family at the stage). We have 20 chickens available now (that was in 2014, now anno September 2015 it’s doubled) and more will be made available once they start laying. First in, first served.
- Adopting goes preferably all year ($4.00 per week). Seasonal adoption possible at $4.50 per week.
- We are unable to keep track of your holidays (if any) in this adoption program and are therefore unable to refund missed weeks (i.e when pausing Bucky Box). If you do pause your CSA shares you can choose to gift them to someone else.
- The COC chicken adoption is only possible as part of the CSA veggie share (as an add-on); i.e. we are unable to just deliver a box of eggs.