A couple of days ago, I was the shuttle driver.

Nicola and an old friend Daryll were scoping out a different route for the next 8 day River Valley Ride.

Nicola has changed the route each departure – this will be the fourth such departure – as she attempts to find just the right mix of terrain, scenery and overnight stopovers. There is certainly much to choose from in our broader geographic area, probably in fact too much. However, you can only go so far on a horse in a day, meaning it is challenging to find the perfect path.

To make sure Daryll and Nicola were not short of time, (and to be honest, to allow a buffer if they got lost), starts were early. I cannot say that I usually have breakfast at 5.30 am!

To cut a long story short, the first day they took a long way, but learned the shorter way, while on the second day, they were supposed to go a long way, but found a shorter way. Still a couple of solid days in the saddle, but making up for that was some spectacular scenery and terrain.

Each morning we tried to be on the road from home (River Valley) by shortly after 6 am. The route we drove entailed driving halfway back to Taihape, turning onto the Moawhango Valley Road, through the small village of Moawhango and then on to the Taihape-Napier Road.

While I am very familiar with the area, what caught my attention was the out of the norm crops being grown.

Along the Moawhango Valley Road, there are Moa Valley Garlic‘s garlic plantings. These plantings are the product of Vanessa Witt and Rita Batley’s hard work. Having tried some of their produce last season, I can certainly vouch for it. In fact, we planted cloves from their bulbs for our main crop garlic in our Lodge gardens.

Moa Valley Garlic
Moa Valley Garlic
Moa Valley Garlic

Garlic plantings at Moa Valley Garlic

Our destination on the second morning was Ohinewairua Station. The horses had been left there overnight, while Nicola and Daryll came home.

Ohinewairua Station is one of the larger farms in our area. It covers some 7500 hectares, with 5500 hectares being what is known as effective – that is, being able to be farmed.

The Station primarily farms sheep, beef cattle, and has a breeding herd of 1400 domesticated deer.

Mark Haines, the Station Manager, met us to point out the route that Nicola and Daryll would need to take to get back home.

Along the route, the riders needed to take were two paddocks of quinoa. This is not a crop typically planted in our area, nor in fact, is it commonly grown anywhere New Zealand. Growing quinoa is the brainchild of locals, Dan and Jacqui Cottrell. Over the last few years they have experimented with growing this Andean superfood, and now grow it at scale under the brand name, Kiwi Quinoa. I believe the whole crop has already been sold.

Like Moa Valley Garlic, Kiwi Quinoa is grown spray free.

Mark must have known about my interest in regenerative practices in general, as he, with quite some enthusiasm, explained to me what they were doing on the Station with multi-species cropping. Multi-species cropping is the practice of planting paddocks in a huge variety of different plant species. In this case, Mark had planted 14 different species, including sunflowers and daikon radish, into various paddocks – now 500 hectares in total – and was encouraged and excited about the results.

Not only were the plantings doing well with excellent growth, but livestock also did well when they came to graze them. Mark commented that animals like variety in their diet just like human beings.

I found these examples of diversification in our district exciting, and I am encouraged that we will see more of it in the future.

As Mark said to me, “Brian, it is all about diversity”. And so it is. Healthy systems and societies thrive with diversity.

Brian Megaw

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