manuka honey farming

Roger Pearce, who works as a farmer in New Zealand’s Taranaki hill country, planned to retire his land to the South Taranaki and Regional Erosion Support Scheme (STRESS). However, upon further inspection, it was revealed that the retired land actually had great potential for the beef and sheep farmer’s future, and part of this included diversifying the land for beekeeping and Manuka honey harvesting. Pearce has begun fencing off his steep slopes and planting poplar poles in different areas of his nearly 5,000-acre property in Waitōtara Valley, fighting the land’s erosion into streams and rivers and creating diversification opportunities.

Roughly 4,000 of Pearce’s acres were grazed on before various 250-acre blocks were retired. A majority of this retired land had already begun reverting due to its pasture unsuitability. Last year, Pearce planted around 500 poplar poles where there was prevalent erosion but made fencing impractical. With this strategy in place, Pearce feels confident that he has found the right formula that will allow him to make a living while making sure his land’s soil doesn’t erode into nearby waterways, degrade the water quality, and increase flooding risks downstream.

“I liked the idea of having some marginal areas fenced off and retired for several reasons,” says Pearce. “One is to help prevent erosion on steeper faces and near waterways. Allowing natural regeneration, along with some strategic planting, helps prevent slipping by increasing ground cover and root structure. It’s also beneficial to have unsafe areas for livestock fenced off and stock excluded, as well as being of ascetic value to the property over time.”

As stated previously, Pearce is already diversifying into a beekeeping operation for Manuka honey, and he can also earn carbon credits for the poplar plantings and his retired lands, but the benefits aren’t ending there. Now, according to Pearce, “we can concentrate on improving fertility and production on the more productive land.” The retired sections are also beneficial for creating natural buffers between waterways and his herds. “I think the retired areas will add value to the property over time, with the benefits of soil conservation and aesthetic value as they grow into substantial native bush areas. They’re also great for the native bird life.”

According to Don Shearman, a local land services manager, Pearce’s sustainability efforts are how it should be done, saying, “It really does sustain the land, as well as the environment, and as well as the livelihoods of farmers like Roger. The bottom line is that without soil, you can’t grow grass.”

Copyright: benham001 / 123RF Stock Photo

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