The good, the bad and the could get ugly! In the past week three big farming stories have been to the forefront on The Country.
The good news story was the 2015/16 Kiwifruit season breaking all sorts of records for the industry with the biggest-ever total return to growers, the highest-ever Green return per hectare and record sales volumes for both Zespri Green and SunGold. Zespri's total sales revenue for the season nudged $2 billion, up 21 percent from the previous season. Average returns per hectare reached a record $60,758. Little wonder some orchards are selling for $500-600,000 per canopy hectare.
The bad? Well let's be honest, it was never going to be good. And Fonterra didn't disappoint with its opening forecast payout for the 2016-17 season. Maybe it was wishful thinking but I was thinking it might have come in at $4-30 to $4-40. As it transpired, the opening shot was at the conservative end of the scale at $4-25. The best piece of commentary I heard on the announcement came from the 2003 Young Farmer of the Year, Robert Kempthorne, who proffered on Twitter, "How to pick a figure that is conservative, yet not inducing widespread panic? Not easy!"
So what about the could get ugly story? That's the ongoing debate over the proposed Silver Fern Farms deal with Shanghai Maling. The ginger group of disgruntled shareholders seeking a special general meeting to re-test shareholder support for the merger tabled its 23 page submission with the board. The SFF board says it could be July before a meeting is possible by which time, conceivably, the Shanghai Maling deal could be signed off. And now wily old Winston Peters has got a sniff of a Chinese scandal. The alleged 'noisy minority' of 80 shareholders now has a high-profile, heavy-hitter in their corner. Watch this space. Dismiss Winston, one of my favourite politicians, at your peril.
One of my favourite functions on the farming calendar is the annual New Zealand Century Farm and Station Awards, held recently in the historic Otago town of Lawrence.
At the height of gold rush fever in the early 1860s, the Lawrence population swelled to over 11,500, double that of Dunedin at the time, making it one of the biggest settlements in the country. These days it's a sleepy village of 500 on the main tourist route from Dunedin to Central Otago. Albeit a lovely village, that maintains many of its historic main street facades.
Many great yarns were told on the night. One such story was that of the Clouston family who settled in Central Otago in 1890. Thomas and Jean Clouston and their three children arrived at Port Chalmers from the Orkney Islands. On the long sea voyage to New Zealand, Thomas went blind, so his family had to lead him by the hand on the long journey to their new farm in Omakau. The family took the train to Dunback and walked to Omakau in the ensuing four days.
Then there was the Wells family who got their start in farming at Whitianga in 1908 when Harry Wells started with just three cows and built the herd by natural increase. Or how about Jermyn family from the Awatere Valley who started out with just three fences in 1899 on their 582 fern-covered acres.
One can only admire the pioneering spirit of those early farming families. Little wonder all the 33 families recognized on the evening, for having kept the family farm in the family name for 100 years or more, were so incredibly proud.
And finally, I wonder whether Southland dairy farmers Brent and Moana McKenzie are incredibly proud of their son? By the time you read this column the first All Blacks team of 2016 will have been named. Hopefully young Damian McKenzie's name will be included in the extended squad.
I've known Damian since he was knee-high to the other kids he played rugby against as a 12 year old. He was already a national junior tennis champion at that age and I can vividly recall watching him spiral punt a ball all of 40-50 metres off his left boot. I can remember being equally surprised a few minutes later when he scored a brilliant individual try and converted it using his preferred right foot. And all this from the smallest kid on a park!
Damian McKenzie is an 80kg (wringing wet) freak-of-nature, excitement machine. Most importantly, in an age where brown brawn often dominates, he is living proof that skinny, white, albeit fearless, kids can make it.