Glass family plans for farming future

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Colin and Paula Glass will always have farming plans in their future. Photo Toni Williams

Opportunities are out there and often come when you least expect them, farmers Colin and Paula Glass say.

The couple, who live at Muckrim Farm on Ashburton River Road, near Methven, have spent years building up a strong farm portfolio and are always open to new possibilities.

Colin, who is at the helm of Dairy Holdings Ltd, a multi-million dollar corporate dairy company with 60 dairy properties in the South Island, has an accounting background and grew up on a mixed farming operation in Mid Canterbury.

He is also a director of a number of irrigation and agribusiness companies and has just been re-elected to the board of DairyNZ. He is the only South Island representative.

Paula is also an accountant and grew up on a sheep and beef farm with her parents, the late Jim and Celie Wood, at Hampden, near Oamaru. She has spent the past 30 years doing the books for others as well as the day-to-day finances of the family operations; Colin does the budgets. For the past 15 and a half years she has also been an accountant at Dairy Holdings Ltd, but has just taken a step back, in semi-retirement, to work on farm.

The time was right, she said. The company has an experienced team in place and Paula is still available in the office when needed but she gets to spend more time working on farm raising bulls, as well as alongside father-in-law Derek.

It’s very physical work, which she’s enjoying and she gets to work alongside Colin at weekends.

“He’s very hands on in the weekend. Colin is Mr-Fix-It-Man, if Colin can’t fix it it no-one can,” Paula said.

Colin has always loved farming and, as a couple, they were always looking at chances within the industry.

“We’re always looking for opportunities, stuff pops up when you least expect it, you’ve just got to back yourself,” he said.

Colin and Paula married in March 2003. They met a couple of years earlier by chance through their respective accounting roles in Dunedin and the numbers just added up.

By the end of 2003 they had moved to Timaru.

They spent every weekend travelling to Mid Canterbury to visit Derek and Rae and spend time on farm.

The girls loved it, Colin said, of daughters Hannah and Olivia, now 16 and 13 respectively.

Two years later Paula and Colin bought into Derek and Rae’s Westward Ho farm (named in similar fashion to the historical novel) on Longsford Road.

The couples have been farming together ever since.

Westward Ho farm has been owned by members of the Glass family since 1976.

It was initially owned by Derek and his twin brother, the late Eddie until they split the partnership in 1983. Eddie and his wife Valerie carried on with the cows, but Derek and Rae took up the mixed cropping side. They also had pigs. In his youth, Colin, now 51, who is also a twin to sister Vicky (six minutes younger), got a lot of hands on farming experience.

In the early 2000s Westward Ho farm moved from mixed cropping to a bull beef operation, where Derek, at 83, is still very involved.

Colin and Paula’s purchase of a farm block at Westerfield in 2007, which was upgraded from border dyke irrigation to pivots and used as a dairy grazing block leased back to Dairy Holdings Ltd, went on to give them opportunity to buy Muckrim Farm, in 2010.

It’s a 140-hectare bull beef finishing farm, named after the farm in Northern Ireland where Colin’s dad grew up. The stock is used as service bulls in the dairy industry and the rest are sold to Silver Fern Farms.

In 2016 they bought a recently converted dairy farm along their road, despite the previous year being a low pay out year of a milk price of just $3.90. The forecast this season is $6.80.

The property, called Tamlaght Farm, gets its name from the where the Glass family hails from in Northern Ireland. It’s in County Antrim.

Colin and Paula have had contract milkers Ronald and Jane Kidayan running the dairy farm operation since then. They are milking 670 cows on a 40 aside herringbone.

“We’ve grown with them,” Colin said, of the first-time contract milkers.

Morning teatime every Saturday in the Glass home has traditionally been a “big catchup event” within the family, Colin said.

They include not only catching up with the girls, but time with Rae and Derek.

Hannah is in Year 12 at St Andrew’s College – Colin’s former school – and next year will be joined at the school by Olivia, still in Year 8, so weekends, already valued, will become more so.

Colin and Paula work to their strengths; he is a terrible cook and she has issues with tractor work, but they have fun and are enjoying what they are doing.

It’s made more enjoyable as both daughters have farming planned for their futures too.

“Farming is always in our future … it’s encouraging, (and) nice that the kids get a kick out of it too.”