Ashburton-based Monique Smith, co-owner of Crozier's Free-Range Turkeys, talks owning an all-in-one turkey farm and introducing ducks to the mix.
What does your business do?
Crozier's Free Range Turkey farm is unique to New Zealand. No one farms the way we farm with the feeding, raising, breeding, and processing done on site. Crozier's has been doing free-range turkeys for over 50 years now and this year we've introduced free-range ducks which isn't common here either.
We're based in Ashburton and we have 32 acres and every flock gets a three-acre paddock to roam in. We supply two per cent of all the turkeys sold in New Zealand. We don't export, and are the smallest producer in New Zealand.
What was the motivation for getting into turkey farming?
Philip and Judith Crozier started the business and my husband Kyle and I took over in 2015. Kyle has been a poultry farm manager for the last 15 years and it was through the shared vet that we found out about it.
The original owners were looking to retire and wanted someone who would reflect what they had been doing and continue to take it on.
How big is your team?
Myself and my husband. My husband's brother is our only full timer and then there's four other part timers in the processing plant.
What's it like running a turkey farm?
It's a lot of hard work. We do all of our feed on-site and source the grains from local farms and vitamins by an animal nutritionist. It's pretty crazy at the moment.
Kyle is up and gone at about 4am and he is catching the birds to be processed throughout the day. We have a processing plant on site and there are four part-timers that come in to help do that, and then there is also maintaining the farm, making the feed and feeding all of the birds. In between that we're also catching birds and breeding them. I'm in the office organising orders that are coming in and out for Christmas - this is our busy season.
We don't bring turkeys in the winter otherwise they would have to be locked in the shed in the wet weather and then they wouldn't be free range. The warmer months are our seriously busy time. We wholesale our turkeys to butchers and specialty stores throughout the country.
What's your background and how did you find the transition into farm life?
I am a hairdresser and beauty therapist by trade. I used to do weddings - the whole package for weddings - hair, makeup, spray tans, nails, leading up to having children and then Kyle has been on farms since he left school.
I did find it quite tricky and it wasn't what I was used to at first. We moved about an hour away from where we were born and bred. I really enjoy the farmers' market we do in Ashburton on a Saturday morning and quite enjoy having a chat with all the people down there. Otherwise, I'm in the office with my dog.
Crozier recently started farming ducks - why did you expand into that area?
We were looking for something to sustain us throughout the year because with cash flow only at Christmas it is pretty tricky. We've been processing the ducks for about 12 weeks.
It's going well, they are a bit of a hit because you can't get free range duck elsewhere and a lot of people like that aspect of it. It has been really great in our community with a really lovely restaurant supporting it and they've been having duck breasts on their menu. We'll continue doing the ducks all year round because they love mud and quite happy out in it.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Do your homework. If you've got a product that you believe and are passionate about then you will always make it work.