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Waihua Station: A Multi-Faceted Beef Operation

It was a crisp autumn day when we caught up with Rose Haynes at her sheep and beef farm, Waihua Station in Wairoa, an hour and a quarter north of Napier. The Haynes family have owned the land for over 140 years and whilst the farm is rich in family history, Rose’s approach is firmly future- focused and dedicated to diversification, sustainable practices, and adaptability.

Rose’s family have been farming in Wairoa since 1882, when her great, great grandfather, originally coming to the area to oversee another block, ended up purchasing Waihua Station and began farming it. Today, Rose owns and manages the property, along with the help of her two daughters; Saba and Jess and their three Jack Russell Terriers. Saba and Jess are now the sixth generation of the Haynes family farming on the property.

The farm spans 300 acres along the rugged east coast, and comprises of 70 cows plus progeny, and approximately 250 sheep. Rose takes a quality over quantity approach to farming, with a focus on nurturing both livestock and land, and despite the smaller numbers, her efforts yield strong results. “The sheep lamb twice a year, and so even though I’ve got smaller numbers, I just try and do it better, and have quality stock,” Rose said.

The operation at Waihua is multi-faceted with many moving parts on a daily basis. Not only does Rose raise and produce her own meat on farm, but she now also sells the meat direct to consumer, allowing her to get more for her products by cutting out the middle men. “It’s been a massive logistical undertaking to get it all teed up, and tie everyone together, from the butchers, chiller transportation, the works, kill space, all of that. But now we sell our own meat from the shop, and we also sell it in Hawke’s Bay and at Mahia, and we’ve just received an inquiry from Auckland, so hopefully we’ll be selling some there as well, so, yeah, it’s really taken off,” Rose continued.

The shift to selling direct has been a rewarding one for Rose; it creates an added sense of value and purpose in her work by seeing the full cycle from producing to selling, and it gives customers transparency too, knowing exactly where their meat comes from.

“I love it when people come to the shop and they ask about the meat, and I can say ‘oh it’s a Shorthorn animal, it’s a heifer, it’s been drenched once in its life’ and I can tell them about what they’re eating. It’s really satisfying; you feel like you’re growing this and producing it for a reason. You’re not just waving goodbye to it on the back of a truck to who knows where. You put all that effort into producing this great animal, and then you’re able to sell it and tell the customer about it and you know that they’re eating good meat. It’s so satisfying. I love doing it.”

Alongside the farming and meat production, Rose has also focused on creating diversity within the business through on-site accommodation (both an existing heritage house and a new eco-cabin), as well as a coffee cart, a merino wool project (working with Ilana Cheiban from New Zealand Mecates who produce merino reins and tack) and the farm shop, where she makes pizza on Sundays alongside her daughters.

This year in March, Waihua Station played host to The Late Lunch, a Hawke’s Bay F.A.W.C (Food And Wine Classic) event in conjunction with Hawke’s Bay Tourism. The event was held in the Waihua gardens, and was a great chance to showcase their beef, paired alongside organic vegetables from a local farm, wine from Crab Farm Winery, and gin from The National Distillery Company Limited.

“What I’ve tried to do, especially in the last few years, is sort of diversify so that it gives my kids lots of options. They may not want to farm, they may want someone else to do the farming for them, or they may want to do other things as well, but I think, by diversifying and setting it up so that it runs smoothly and the infrastructures are looked after, then it’s going to make it easier for the next lot to take care of it.” Rose said.

When talking about her daughters and the work they both do on the farm, Rose said “I couldn’t really do it without them. They jump in the yards and move sheep for me, we all muck in together, so they’re massive part of our business and are just as integral for this all to work, and run smoothly as I am.”

The eco-cabin in particular has been a key project Rose has been working on for some time. Nestled on a secluded part of the farm, with incredible ocean views and large windows on both sides to make the most of the sunrise and sunset, it captures the essence of Waihua. “The cabin is solar powered and made from 20,000 recycled plastic bottles. It looks out to sea, and it’s a bit more of a getaway for couples” Rose highlighted. Since our visit, the cabin is now complete and can be booked through and Airbnb.

“We also have an option for people to plant a tree when they come to stay; we’ve got lots of seedlings, so we’ll just take them down, and they can choose where they want to plant it. The girls and I have planted over 5,000 trees around the riverbank, just in the last three years, and it is really important to us to keep the waterways clean. Sustainability is big thing for us, and I think realistically, it’s the way forward. Living by the sea, we see global warming first-hand; the change in the beach, the erosion and rising water levels. We’ve seen it change dramatically in the last 15-20 years, so it is really important.”

Whilst her achievements both on and off the farm are impressive, the operation doesn’t come without its challenges. Rose understands the pressures of farm life all too well, which is why she emphasises the importance of mental well-being and taking the time to look after yourself. “I think when you’re on a farm, even in your downtime, because you live at work, you just see work all the time. And so for me, I need to remove myself from that. So I go to Mahia, to the beach once a week for a run and swim. I find it really therapeutic, just to step back and look at the beach and the sea, and you can think about nothing, put headphones on and just relax. I do it all year round, swimming in winter as well, it’s great. It makes me just feel so good.”

Rose also highlighted the importance of normalising these conversations for farmers and rural people and breaking through the old school ‘she’ll be right’ mentality. “Everyone needs a break at times, everyone needs someone to talk to, or a sounding board or just to get away, and I think now that it’s become so much more acceptable, and more people are focusing on doing that, it’s a great thing.”

For Rose, it is the enjoyment in what she does, the value she can see in her work and the ability to be flexible in business that helps her continue forging ahead. “I just love what I do. I’m happy to get up in the morning and head on out to work, and it’s different every day. I’ve got so much going on, it keeps me stimulated, I’d be bored if I didn’t have all this other stuff. Being able to do all that, and for the girls to be a part of something that they can see is bigger than just this. And to be able to share this with everyone as well, it’s nice, then they see it through other people’s eyes and they appreciate it.”

On advice for women wanting to go into agriculture, Rose said “Just go for it, don’t hold back. I think you have to be flexible too, especially in this economic climate. You’ve got to think outside of the square and try different things, and I’m all for that. People say you’ve got to be resilient, and you’ve got to cope, but it puts a whole lot of pressure on people, and children and farmers. Things do go wrong, you do make wrong decisions, and that’s okay, but it’s good to give it try. Not everything works. I know it’s been a massive learning curve for us doing the farm shop, selling our meat and the tourism. And sure, you don’t always get it right, you do muck up sometimes and it’s okay, but I think it’s important to give different things a go.”