Get to know the 2014 Enterprising Rural Women Awards entrants in the Making it in Rural category, sponsored by Spark.
If you haven't already, you can view a bit on all of the contestants by watching our video.
Elizabeth (Biddy) Fraser
Cwmglyn Farm is a 4.4 ha property with four jersey cows which are milked once a day all year round, with staggered calving so that there are cows always in milk. The milk is processed in Biddy’s licensed cheese room to make traditional renneted hard farmhouse cheese, using the same techniques used centuries ago, but with modern standards of hygiene. It has a wholly natural rind sealed with clarified butter, made from the cream. It is matured over several months.
Biddy milks the cows herself using a single cluster milking plant and the cows are strip milked by hand. Each cheese is made from the milk of a single named cow, so visitors can see and pat the actual cow it came from. Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese won Silver at the World Cheese Awards in 2013 in the UK, one of the largest cheese competitions in the world, with 30 countries competing with 2777 entries. It was the only NZ winner.
Biddy is a strong advocate for food regulations to be tailored in compliance costs to cottage industry sized operations, such as in the UK, when their own milk is used, rather than buying in.
Rachael has a passion for rural living, conservation, animal rights, promoting NZ business and products and creating a self-sustainable business from home, having turned her back on a career in graphic communications and computing in the urban corporate world.
Seven months into a course on Medical Herbalism, she came up with the idea of creating an e-commerce retail store selling only NZ made healthy, organic, sustainable and eco-friendly products, called www.ecochi.co.nz.
She then started creating her own line of natural products, beginning with Bee Kind Beeswax Polishes sold through www.beekind.co.nz, using formulas for furniture and leather using old traditional recipes and ingredients such as Carnauba wax, plant oils, essential certified plant oils, eucalyptus and manuka oil. These waxes are now sold throughout NZ and exported to Japan, Australia, UK, America, Sweden and Taiwan.
By mid 2013 Rachael had researched and developed a range of honey-based skin care products and balms with manuka oil and active UMF manuka honey. This chemical free range is sold through www.honeybeekind.co.nz and is exported to Taiwan, USA and Sweden.
She developed a soap called Kaimanawash Soap, to fundraise for the Kaimanawa horses, the SPCA, SAFE and the Kiwi Care team. This has progressed to the development of a commercial non-chemical horse and dog soap named Naturally White, which will be marketed through Bee Kind and Ecochi NZ.
Anne and Harry Frost began their blueberry venture, Mamaku Blue, in the 1980s when they planted a hectare of land in 2000 blueberry plants, propagating from these and planting another hectare in 1985. By 1997 the couple were producing blueberry wine, winning their first medal at the NZ Fruit Winemakers International Competition in 1998; something they’ve repeated many times since. In 2000 they built a new winery building including a shop, cafe, conference room, reception centre and museum, opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark, the first time an NZ PM had been to Mamaku.
The couple have since developed a range of blueberry products including jams, chutneys, jelly, sauces and others to complement the wine liqueur and juice.
They have continued to expand the orchard and built a purpose built factory including a 35 ton freezer, a blast freezer, cool rooms and fruit grading equipment.
With the economic downturn in 2009 they decided to attend Farmers Markets, each weekend going to Auckland, Mt Maunganui, Tauranga and Rotorua with fresh produce.
In 2010 they began a research project with Massey on the health properties of their blueberries and juice.
Mamaku Blue have changed their business from export to local sales, from mainly wine making to juice making, reacting to market trends.
Nicola Wright is a viticulturist, winemaker, chef, marketing manager and sales representative of Wrights Vineyard and Winery - The Natural Wine Company. In 2004, she and husband Geoff began with 25,000 grape vine cuttings. They now have three vineyards on 18 hectares of land, a straw bale home, a commercial winery and a cafe/cellar door.
Nicola works at every level of this end-to-end business, which is based on organic principles, creating the organic and bio-dynamic preparations. They then developed a winery in three shipping containers, processing 30-35 tonnes a vintage.
In 2013 the couple purchased the former Whitecliffs Vineyard, where Nicola was able to use the commercial kitchen to develop the food to match the wine.
Wrights Vineyard is the first winery in NZ to be approved by the vegetarian society, using natural clay as a fining agent rather than fish, milk or eggs.
In 2011 they introduced a label - The Natural Wine Company, promoting natural or wild ferments, offering everyday, affordable organic wine.
Nicola says she and Geoff are pioneering spirits, willing to give it a go and to create a market for products from the edge (Gisborne).
They have also gone on to develop a tourism experience including live music and a cellar door experience with local steam train passengers. When the local cycle tours company shut down they created their own touring company and they also market to cruise ship visitors.
Georgia Richards and Dot Kettle
In 2008, Georgia and Dot moved from city jobs in Wellington to a 42ha property in Dove Valley in the Tasman region. The hot summers and frosty winters were perfect for growing Peonies. They purchased thousands of tubers and by 2011 were selling cut flowers for the domestic and export market. As complete novices, with no horticultural experience, they'd learned a lot from members of the NZ Peony Society, learning from 'old hands'. From this, the business began to unfold into Dove River Peonies.
They then became keen to diversify by adding natural healthcare products based on the anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial property of the peony root, approaching a local handmade soap manufacturer to produce a selection of peony-based handmade luxury soaps for sensitive skin. These are sold at the Nelson market and online.
They then began working with a Nelson complementary medicines manufacturer to develop a 100% natural, hypo-allergenic, peony based cremes range for the relief of eczema, psoriasis and to repair damaged skin. These will be launched in October.
They are the only producer of NZ peony root in natural products, and this year they began planting NZ’s first BioGro organic peony root plantation.
For the health products, they follow British Pharmacopeia harvesting protocols.
Spurred on by the big spring storm of 2010, the worst in a generation, Robinson Raincoats was born out of desperation when Ann-Maree needed to track down plastic lamb covers and found they were like hens teeth. She found an old cellphone number on a box, and tracked down the original supplier, who had gone out of manufacturing. She asked to buy his machinery which he agreed to deliver in a couple of days time. Then followed half an hour of training and Ann-Maree was in business.
By the next day they were being delivered to desperate sheep farmers. Now, son (high school student) Jeffrey does the manufacturing and Ann-Maree does the rest of the business including orders and supplies, marketing, distribution, packaging, invoicing, wages, record keeping etc. They do it as a means of guaranteeing supply for their own farm, and providing a service to fellow sheep farmers. It’s also a way of helping the NZ economy, as the plastic covers protect and promote the growth rates of new born lambs. If each roll of covers saves five lambs from perishing, that’s an extra $2.5 million injected into the NZ economy over the last four seasons.