Rowena Duncum and Andy Thompson are on their way to the main event on the Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays.
Starting in Dunedin on June 8, our intrepid duo will hit the road in their trusty Wendekreisen Campervan to take in the sights and catch up for a cuppa and a chat on-farm along the way.
On June 15, they will finish up Hamilton ready for Fieldays which will take place at Mystery Creek from June 16.
You can keep an eye on their progress with this fancy dashboard by Eagle Technologies - and while you're doing that, you could also enter our competition to win an Eagle Magic fishing experience!
Like all great adventures, the Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays will be documented, so make sure you come back to check out Ro and Andy's diary entries and photos from their journey, which will be updated here.
Ro and Andy's Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays diary
On today's show: It's only day one of the Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays and Rowena Duncum is already wondering how she's going to cope with Andy Thompson for eight days straight – especially since he's threatening to paint the Wendekreisen campervan in Crusaders' colours!
Ro's diary day one
Day one of our Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays was amazing!
So good to be actually on the road after spending so long planning our route (and re-planning thanks to the flooding!).
Seeing the flood damage we'd only talked about and heard second hand, was pretty mind blowing.
Leaving Geraldine, from the one-way bridge across the Orari River, entire trees with their root systems intact stretched as far as the eye could see upstream. A stark contrast with the Rangitata River not far away, which looked utterly unaffected.
As you'd expect, fences stretched for kilometers chocka full of grass and debris – the force of the water would have been pretty intense. There's significant signs of recovery already - places where they've removed the fencing and got new strainers in already. But there's still weeks or months of work in front of farmers though.
Calling into our first couple of farms for our Netspeed catch ups, it hit home just how much I miss having the best office in the world!
We parked up beside the Rangitata Diversion Race on NZ Farming Facebook page co-founder and Mt Somers deer farmer Duncan Humm's place, enjoyed a coldie after someone (me) forgot the water for the kettle. Chilling in the sunshine, yarning all things farming and connectivity was not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
While the sun disappeared as we turned in the gateway to Guinness World Record wheat grower Eric Watson's, it came back as we settled in for a cuppa in the fields (I found the water this time!) and we learnt just what it takes to prepare, sow, grow and ratify quite literally the best wheat crop in the world.
Growing up, for me the Guinness World Record book was the holy grail – if you'd made it into the book, that was it. You'd made it in life. So I was pretty shattered when Eric said it wasn't his lifelong boyhood dream: "I never even thought about it."
Not quite the fairytale I expected, but still pretty cool to think what's possible for our kiwi farmers if they set their mind to it.
Really looking forward to Day 2 and getting further up the South Island.
Ro's diary day two
One thing you've got to give Canterbury – it does fog really well. Can't even see the next lamppost well. But thankfully it cleared up just as we arrived on farm to meet Jono Frew from Natural Performance and Symbiosis.
Using basic, down-to-earth, no-bull language, he explained aspects of regenerative farming that had even us two straight-as-you-go traditional farmers nodding along, eager to know more.
For all politicians have thrown the term around in the last election campaign, (increasing the resistance surrounding it), regenerative agriculture will play a role to varying degrees in the future of farming in New Zealand. Which makes sense.
After all, our forebears are the ones who gave kiwi farmers their innovative reputation – and they didn't do that by being closed off to new practices.
From Lismore it's up to Rakaia, where Irishman turned Crusaders-loving kiwi dairy farm owner Enda Hawe is celebrating his birthday and happy to share a slice of cake with us as he speaks of his love for the kiwi farming system – having arrived with nothing and progressed to farm ownership.
He truly is a wonderful advocate for dairy and a genuine inspiration to the skilled migrant workers that keep the industry ticking over. We just need to work on his footy allegiance.
After another stop in the Greta Valley for a cuppa with foundation Crusaders player Stu Loe, we roll into Blenheim around 9pm, when Andy settles in the Wendekreisen campervan for the night with a drop of Shiraz he'd flogged from Jamie Mackay's cellar and the Blackcaps v England Test match to keep him company.
The camper has surprised us all by how easy it is to drive, and how comfortable to travel in – the test will be how much sleep Andy manages, right beside the train line!
Ro's diary day three
Well despite two trains rolling through in the middle of the night – Andy emerges bright and chipper, having enjoyed his night in the Wendekreisen campervan.
He had everything at his fingertips – pop up TV, beer fridge at the ready, and separation from the rest of the team. The smart ones out there will deduce this last point should prove more and more important as the Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays progresses!
First up, we head to a farm that's been in the Hammond family for 151 years.
Longfield Farm in its present state incorporates 650 acres – the majority of which are planted in contractually-grown grapes for the likes of neighbouring wine brands Wither Hills and Villa Maria.
The first grapes were planted in 1999, and present owners Rob and his wife Lyn haven't looked back.
As the conversation turns to labour – Rob explains his contractor usually brings over 150 workers each year from Thailand – many of whom have been returning every season for at least 10 years.
About 60 have been stuck in New Zealand for nearly two years now, thanks to Covid.
Unable to return and see their families for two reasons – there's no way back, and also there's no jobs for them to return to. It's sacrifices like that, that we don't always hear about or appreciate.
After a lunchtime BBQ at Blenheim Goldpine and the chance to meet their staff and clients, plus listeners who were driving past, we decided stretching the legs over 9 holes at Marlborough Golf Course was just what the doctor ordered before our 7pm ferry sailing.
Fortuitously, we bumped into sole Greens keeper Gavin, two shots into the first hole (when Andy nearly sconed him). What a great New Zealander he is.
He's been in the role for seven years and the place looked an absolute picture. Gav popped up again as we teed off on the 5th (having had a terrible 4th hole) with a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir, taken from a sole line of the variety on the edge of the course - Row 40.
This absolutely made up for landing in the drink twice. We reckon we could stay here for another week, but it's off to the North Island for us, as the Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays continues.
Ro's diary day four
As Thursday night rolls into Friday, we roll off the ferry into the North Island at last – yay!
From here it goes slightly downhill though, as we arrive at a friend's to crash for the night and it's all shut up. Nothing like scaling security gates at 12:45am, expecting police to arrive any second, to get the blood pumping!
After a couple of hours' sleep, it's off to meet Wayne Langford - Golden Bay farmer and co-founder of Meat the Need - at Parliament, to film a short video about how farmers and processor Silver Fern Farms are getting behind the charity to help families in need.
It's such an incredible initiative and, as we are every time we talk to Wayne about it, we're once again blown away by the scale of the generosity and degree of compassion shown by everyone involved. A glaringly stark contrast to Speaker Trevor Mallard's utterly wasteful $582k slide in the Parliament grounds to our left.
Moving on (literally and figuratively), we stop off for lunch at the Speights Ale House in Palmerston North, before heading to no man's land. Literally. Lisa and Terry Yates farm near Dannevirke on the boarder between Southern Hawke's Bay, Northern Wairarapa, Eastern Manawatu in the Tararua region.
How's that for choosing footy allegiances? What a slice of paradise it is though, and we're pretty grateful to Goldpine for putting us on to them.
After taking a "short cut" through deepest darkest Hawke's Bay (Puketapu and Glengarry!) we arrive in Taupō not long after nightfall and just in time to watch the Hurricanes then Highlanders exert dominance over their Aussie counterparts. What a day!
Ro's diary day five and six
After not being able to stretch our legs much thus far on the Goldpine Roadie to Fieldays, we opt for a spot of golf over the weekend.
Unfortunately for Andy, it's not even remotely his lucky day as he goes down 3-0 to Ro – firstly at the Minigolf on the lakefront (2 shots), then over 9 holes at Wairakei both on Saturday (1 shot) and Sunday (5 shots).
Sporting victories for Ro aside, hands down the highlight of the weekend is a message from Simon Jolly, who took over his father's business (Chris Jolly Outdoors) four years ago, offering to take us fly fishing at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning.
As neither of us have tried the sport before, we didn't expect to come close to catching anything, but were keen to give it a crack.
While we can't reveal the secret spot we went to, we can confirm it proved very fruitful, with Andy landing a beautiful trout, and Ro landing two (lucky he takes defeat well!).
We won't make mention of "the one that got away" when Ro dropped it back into the river while posing for a photo.
Just like we won't mention Andy's beloved Crusaders failing to make the Super Rugby final …
Ro's diary day seven
With Andy still licking his sporting wounds, we are reunited with our cameraman Wade and head to the Taupō offices of Te Ara Miraka – a small, mainly iwi-owned dairy company with 100 suppliers.
Being in such a significant ecological area, the work that's been done on farm environment plans and utilising technology in association with Eagle Technology's ArcGIS platform is pretty impressive.
Fair to say they're shooting well ahead of the curve on this, and it's also fascinating learning how Miraka came about.
After lunch we take a completely different tack and head to Lakeman Brewing Company – a brewery in the middle of a farm on the edge of Lake Taupo, for a Netspeed catch up visit.
There, James Cooper explains the extreme nitrogen limitations of the area and how they decided to fully utilise the very water they are protecting with their farming practices.
And what better way to utilise water than make it into craft beer? Top plan team!
After sampling "Cactus Juice" we also try the still-brewing "Jet Fuel" – a collaboration between James and our first Netspeed catch-up subject Duncan Humm from NZ Farming. Small world eh?
They're making Jet Fuel to serve two purposes – enter it in a competition, and also raise funds for rescue helicopters, which rural New Zealand so heavily relies on.
Again – top plan team!
Ro's diary day eight
They say all good things come to an end, and today the Goldpine Road Trip to Fieldays finally reached its destination – Mystery Creek!
Hand on heart, for all the joking around about us not surviving the week on the road together, it has been one of the most incredible experiences.
Having people open up their homes, their businesses, their lives to us has been humbling, educational…and a real blast!
We managed to fit in one last Netspeed on-farm catch up along the way – we'd put the call out to the people of New Zealand to find us a kiwifruit operation between Taupō and Hamilton and the overwhelming response had been centred around Whitehall Fruitpackers in Karapiro.
So that's where we went, to meet the lovely Gardiner family. What started out as a Mum and Dad operation in 1975 when Mark planted his first vines "and got told Waikato wasn't an area you can grow kiwifruit in!" now stretches over 220Ha producing 2.2 million trays.
No Fieldays would be complete without a bit of travel drama, so after one cancelled flight and a bus ride from the West Coast to Christchurch, Andy is finally reunited with his wife Anna-Marie; and to Ro's relief, Jamie's flight is the sole flight out of ten in and out of Dunedin on Tuesday evening to make it.
The gang's reunited and set for a big three days!