Rangitikei Homestay and NZ Country Trails
Rangitikei Homestay and NZ Country Trails offering holiday options for travellers.
As New Zealanders are unable to go overseas because of Covid-19 restrictions, more and more are travelling within the country and seeking farm stays and rural activities for the family at an affordable price. Rangitikei Forestay has been offering those opportunities for more than a decade and now has a range of facilities and accommodation options. NZ Country Trails is a new venture to provide an on-line directory for travellers researching rural journeys.
Rangitikei Farmstay was launched in 2008 when fourth-generation farmer Andrew Stewart and his wife Kylie came back to Tyrone, which has been farmed by the family since 1901. They utilized historic buildings and artefacts on the property to provide a range of accommodation options, based on a bunkhouse and cabins. They have hosted hundreds of groups from local schools, corporates and clubs and have welcomed international visitors for a slice of NZ farm life. This includes self-guided walks, hand-feeding animals, hearing and seeing native birds, bush tramping, star gazing in the night sky and glow worms. They also offer guided farm tours, guided horse trekking, shearing and mustering demonstrations, clay bird shooting and 30-minute virtual tours on the internet, when connectivity speed allows.
Nearly 600 people come to the annual Mudder Runs, with 3km, 5km and 8km options with obstacles. Live music and food and drink are available on the day with the help of sponsors. Tyrone has ongoing environmental programmes including tree planting, fencing livestock out of waterways and native bush, erosion stabilisation, collection and use of rainwater, recycling and eating local, from the farm garden and from local food providers.
The property is 630ha and carries 2500 Romney ewes and 300 Angus cattle. Staff members are chosen for their ability to talk to visitors along with their farming skills.
Andrew’s parents Hugh and Diana Stewart are nearby and able to help out and they have always been very supportive of the farmstay venture.
Andrew and Kylie travelled widely before settling down, having a family (Hannah 9 and Charlotte 5) and developing the farmstay, and they have good people skills along with farming, writing, teaching, demonstrating and catering.
Before Covid-19, up to 80% of the Rangitikei Farmstay visitors were from overseas. The Stewarts are pleased that domestic visitors have come in greater numbers, especially those wanting to enjoy the great outdoors. Visitors like that enjoy the contrast between urban living and the wide, unpopulated spaces and uninterrupted views of Tyrone. “Our passion is to educate visitors on the good things that farmers are doing,” Kylie said.
Further development plans include greatly expanding the edible garden with fruits and vegetables and emphasizing “paddock to plate” experiences. Some 500 strawberry plants and 50 blueberry bushes went into the ground this year. The new venture follows a period of analysis during the Covid lockdown as to what could replace the international visitors. A plant nursery was begun and guests who comment on particular plants can now be offered seedlings or cuttings.
In contrast to overseas visitors, Kiwis are often keen and confident to pick their fruits and vegetables and cook for themselves suggested meals in the accommodation. Kylie and Andrew want to cater to that holiday trend but not do the actual cooking. They feel that as food producers they are well-placed to grow and provide the meal ingredients. For guests who do not want to cook, a local café will provide meals, pre-specified on the Rangitikei Farmstay website.
The Stewarts want visitors to see, experience and understand farm life and are therefore ideal clients of the NZ Country Trails initiative and its objectives.
NZ Country Trails was born four years ago when Wellington-based Jim Collins thought of a website to provide promotions and contacts for rural people to offer accommodation, activities and crafts to townsfolk and international visitors. He received interest from Country Calendar, Country Life and from Rural Women NZ but without commitment and funding. He then approached the past-president of Federated Farmers, Katie Milne, who has been very keen to bridge the gap between town and country. FFNZ has joined with Jim Collins and partners to develop the website, which is free to use for federation members.
Collins says the objective of Country Trails was to establish a nationwide network of open gates where visitors are invited to experience home-grown rural life, and to meet the characters, learn the history and hear the stories that go with it all. He views the site as a natural extension of the various trails that have proved popular, like cycle, horse and wine trails.
The venture also supports two aims of the government’s primary sector strategy – 10,000 more Kiwis into the rural workforce over four years and 10% more employment in the food and fibre industries.
FFNZ CEO Terry Copeland says, “We see heaps of potential for this project, and not just because it will help supplement the farm income. It’s also about helping people understand the lifestyle and the businesses in rural New Zealand.”
Showdown Productions Ltd. Rural Delivery Series 16 2021