How one family continued to innovate a Marlborough farm for over a century of business

How one family continued to innovate a Marlborough farm for over a century of business

New Zealand's farming landscape is peppered with stories of resilience, perseverance, and the relentless pursuit of innovation. Among them is the remarkable story of Caythorpe Family Estate, a family-owned farm in Marlborough that has stood the test of time for an impressive 143 years.

Representing the fifth generation of Bishell to work on the land, Caythorpe Farm Director Simon Bishell told REX host Dominic George the family history makes his job feel extra special.

"We're obviously a multi-generational family business and it was established in 1880 by my great-great-grandfather, David, so this marks our 143rd year of living on the property here," he said.

The farm's success lies in its multifaceted operations that extend beyond the traditional crops. From harvesting cherries to producing wine, selling hay, and even a unique concept of sheep grazing in their vineyards, the farm showcases diversity at its finest.

This diversification became a necessity in the ‘80s during a period of economic turmoil. 

"They (his parents) kind of had two options. One, they could sell the farm and relieve their financial headache in the short term. 

"But farming was all they knew. So, they decided to stay but do things differently."

The 'different' approach led to the planting of cherries and grapes, which soon became the farm's lifeline. 

"The vineyard side of things, even to plant Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, that was still very early on in the varietal shift. 

"In those early years, the vineyard started generating up to 30% of the farm's income."

Bishell also mentions the 'perfect circular system' of sheep grazing in the vineyard. The farm, having 150 hectares of vineyard, houses 1000 to 1400 store-lambs throughout the winter months, which helps in maintaining the land.

Despite the many challenges each crop presents, the farm is committed to enhancing business value by owning more of the supply chain and reducing labour inputs. One such innovative measure is an Arcuson multi-pack piece of machinery that aggregates 14 small bales of hay into one medium square, saving time and labour.

In a fascinating addition to their operations, Caythorpe Family Estate also introduced corporate gift packs that include two kilos of cherries and two bottles of wine, becoming the only place in New Zealand to offer a state-growing cherries and wine package.

The story of Caythorpe Family Estate is a testament to the resilient spirit and innovative mindset of New Zealand's farming community.

"We're just thrilled to be able to do that and hopefully add a little bit more value and give the next generation an opportunity, if they so desire, to continue it," Bishell told George

With resilience in their roots and innovation in their vision, the Bishell family continues to sow seeds of success on their centuries-old farm, embodying the very spirit of New Zealand's farming industry.

Listen to the full chat between Caythorpe Family Estate Director Simon Bishell and Dominic George above.

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