Beyond farming: Hurunui Garden Festival reveals NZ's hidden world of agritourism marvels

Beyond farming: Hurunui Garden Festival reveals NZ's hidden world of agritourism marvels

New Zealand's Agritourism industry thrives off the country's abundance of beautiful countryside, vineyards and natural gardens. While most properties are predominantly working businesses, the picturesque nature of Aotearoa lends itself perfectly to utilising these amazing places for more than just their traditional agricultural practices.

One such example of this is the Hurunui Garden Festival which will be held from the 26th to the 29th of October and showcases a range of 19 extraordinary and diverse North Canterbury gardens.

The Chair of the event Meg McFarlane told REX host Dominic George that agritourism is a growing trend in North Canterbury and tends to be a natural progression in her experience with roughly 60% of the gardens on display existing on already working farms.

"I think it happens naturally," she said.

She believes the festival offers an affordable and stress-free way to explore the stunning gardens of North Canterbury. McFarlane encouraged people to take their time and explore all the gardens not just those closest to them.

"It's a real privilege to be able to go into those farms and we love having people, we want them to see what it's like to farm and live where we live and the trials and tribulations of where we are.

"Get adventurous and don't miss out on those far distant ones, because they are really, really good." 

Find out more information about the Hurunui Garden Festival including how to attend, the cost of tickets and everything else you might need to know at

Visitors to her farm were not just fascinated by the landscapes, but also by the day-to-day farming activities. Even something as simple as moving sheep down the road or the sudden rise of a river became a spectacle for the visitors. 

"We had a group from Canada and when they drive onto the edge of our place they arrived at our cattle yards and the vista of the KaikĊura's is just open and it's pretty amazing.

"One of our sons was moving some sheep down the road with one of his polo ponies, they all got out of their bus and started taking photos and then they said, 'can you do it again' so we had to turn them around and do it again."

A Rural Business Manager by trade, McFarlane looks after the administration part of two farms and a contracting business, volunteers as the Chair of the local health centre in Rotherham and is also involved with canine therapy where she takes her labrador to hospitals to comfort unwell patients.

McFarlane also shed light on the scholarship fund she's initiated with their non-profit organization, worth around $2000 it is aimed at aiding young people in their educational pursuits. 

"We are quite firm on giving back to the community and we decided that a scholarship fund was probably the best way to do that."

The scholarship is funded through donations to the group for camping during the festival but McFarlane explained that they always have money in reserve so will offer at least one scholarship every year regardless of how much money they receive from the festival.

"We charge them $15 per head, if we have stall holders in the garden they get charged $50 per site and that all goes towards the scholarship."

Her passion for the land, her dedication to farming, and her commitment to giving back to the community make her a true ambassador of agritourism in the region. 

Listen to the full chat between Meg McFarlane and Dominic George above.

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