The rich fabric of the Gore District farming community, its contribution to the New Zealand economy, and all those who are essential workers supporting the local farming communities, are why Andrew Morrison loves his hometown.
The sheep and beef farmer from Willowbank, just outside of Gore, has farming in his blood, with his grandfather being one of the early Romney sheep farmers in the District.
“You have to love living in a rural community where people always have time for each other, where you know your local mechanic by name and you know where to go to get the best tractor tyres because you have been dealing with them for 20-odd years,” Andrew says.
Andrew is more than a local farming identity in Gore – his name is well-known throughout New Zealand for his passionate involvement in many organisations, including roles as:
- Chairman of Beef + Lamb NZ,
- Chairman of the New Zealand Meat Board,
- Director of Ballance Agri-Nutrients,
- Director of Wool Research of New Zealand, and
- Director of Ovis, an organisation tasked with monitoring sheep measles in New Zealand.
Alongside all of this and his “real job”, Andrew operates two sheep and beef farms with his wife Lisa – a 900ha farm in South Otago and his 154ha home farm at Waikaka Valley.
The future of agriculture
Andrew says his work with boards and as chairman of organisations is about him serving a sector that he loves. It is about representing an industry that is in his blood and has been part of his family’s story for generations.
His family have farmed in Willowbank on a farm now owned by Andrew’s brother since 1875.
“A massive 82 percent of New Zealand’s exports come from our own food producers, from our land,” says Andrew.
“That equates to $52 billion our food producers bring to the New Zealand economy. That is the strength of the New Zealand economy, built ground up from small rural communities like ours delivering New Zealand’s wealth.
“That is phenomenal and here in the Gore District, we have a real strength in our agricultural sector.
“People looking at coming to New Zealand to farm have really strong options and the Gore District is one of those. Southland has great rich soils. Be it dairy, sheep and beef, arable or new initiatives like oat milk, we have the opportunities with our natural resources.”
A lot of Andrew’s time is spent advocating for sensible and workable policies from central government.
While farming comes with its environmental challenges, local farmers are also playing their part in ensuring they take proactive action on their land, such as riparian planting and protection of waterways.
“Sheep and beef farming has a light environmental footprint, but we’re committed to doing even better,” says Andrew.
“I, like many farmers, have worked to create shelterbelts, plant trees and protect the waterways on my land, which also helps create shade and shelter for my animals too.”
The Romney legacy
His Willowbank farm is 100 percent sheep farming – something the Gore District is renowned for – so much so, a large Romney statue can be found in the town centre, alongside the town’s other eclectic mix of large statues.
“The statue was the brainchild of my grandfather Les Morrison and the members of the Southern Provinces Romney Breeders club. My grandfather had been to Scotland and had seen a similar statue there and thought it would be a great idea to celebrate our local sheep industry here.
“The statue is a great example of celebrating and recognising our past to help build a strong future and that is the fun of living in a tight knit community.
“Building those strong relationships with the people you live near is so important and I think that is a strength of living in a rural community.
“Māori have a great proverb He aha te mea nui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata – what is the most important thing? The people, the people, the people.
“That is our strength here in the Gore District. It is those connections, and the work that is done in rural communities like ours that makes a huge difference to all New Zealanders.”