Eric the sheep, manuka honey, New Zealand

Writer, Farmer, Parent

As a writer and a farmer in the Kaihoka area of New Zealand, Joyce Wyllie has a full schedule. In the column she writes for a Kaihoka paper, Wyllie answered the question most people asked her, which is, “What do you do out there in the country?” During the late summer season, it’s balancing family, farming, and community involvement.

Like most farmers, she starts her day before sunrise. March is typically one of her busiest after the month of February, which is right in the middle of summer and has many activities going on. As a typical New Zealand sheep farmer, Wyllie’s family sells lambs as their main source of income, with the first bunch of this year going for $95 each. A recent commodities report for her area mentioned that “lamb prices have bucked their usual February trend,” which is great news for Wyllie and her family.

Kaihoka Summers

Based on Wyllie’s experience, the Kaihoka summers of New Zealand are often wet and warm. This is great for flourishing crops and healthy animals, but the weather does create the ideal environment for parasite larvae to grow. This means the lambs must be sprayed to keep worms down. During February of this year, honey harvesting began, and the beekeepers who use Wyllie’s land for harvesting started to load up and take away boxes of honey for processing.

While the wet weather was great for the manuka and clover, it wasn’t helpful for the honeybees, who couldn’t go out to harvest as much. Most of the pollen also washed away, so the hives weren’t as full. Wyllie offered her sympathy to her fellow farmers for their small turnout, but they noted that all farmers have good years and bad years. Fortunately for the apiarists, local prices for Manuka honey are still high.

Kaihoka summers are also times for celebration, and weddings, anniversaries, and graduations in the community often keep Wyllie away from home. As well, when she isn’t tending to her own farm, she’s helping out other farmers too. Wyllie finds joy in gaining a different perspective from someone else’s “office.” When she can, Wyllie helps with stock, figures, and pasture cover on other farms. “There will always be plenty to do on our own farm, but it is so worthwhile for so many reasons to visit someone else’s farm.”

School Boards

Around this time, Wyllie’s family is getting back into their morning routines for school and after-school activities. Wyllie is also on the board of trustees for her children’s school. Being a member can be demanding at the beginning of the year—she attends meetings to discuss annual plans, health and safety issues, and ways to develop the school charter.

Being a part of the school board, like other activities in the community and on the farm, requires commitment. Any length of time served on the school board is a big responsibility. A day off is rare for Wyllie, but she’s happy to participate. “There certainly is plenty going on, and as busy as we are, I am thankful that I can be involved, and I guess I would like it no other way.”

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