Farming the real thing in Middle Earth
The Alexander family had never heard of Peter Jackson when in 1998 he first knocked on the front door of their Matamata farm.
The movie maker had spotted their 560ha sheep and beef farm from the air and thought the site could make an ideal set for what was to be The Lord of the Rings movies.
Unfortunately, Jackson chose the wrong time to call in on Ian Alexander, his son Craig told a large crowd of international farming journalists in Waikato for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress.
‘‘Dad shooed him off because it was the second half of the big [NPC] rugby final,’’ he said.
Today, the movie set remains and Hobbiton has grown into one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions. .
‘‘We’re looking at doing 300,000 visitors now.’’
Today, the tourism venture has about 70 permament staff and twice that number over the busy summer season. It’s given the Matamata district a huge boost in earnings and the region is now thriving.
‘‘The wow factor, particularly from Asian people who have come from a concrete city – when they drive through here, they are absolutely gobsmacked’’
Craig has to be strategic in where he farms stock because of the occasional gate left open by an unsuspecting tourist.
The family business began on the western coast of Taranaki before Ian Alexander and his brother moved to Waikato. Today they lamb 4300 romney ewes and calve 170 angus breeding cows..
Until four years ago, Craig farmed in conjunction with his brother Dean before he moved to Southland to run the family’s 600-cow dairy farm.
His brother Russell
runs the Hobbiton tourism venture.
The farm is the home of Alexander Farming Genetics, a romney stud that sells rams to commercial farmers and other studs for up to $10,000 as well as running a commercial flock.
The farm produces about 6000 lambs every year.
He told the journalists he believed that if he remained innovative and kept creating interest there was no reason interest in Hobbiton would wane.
Alexander Farming Genetics owner Craig Alexander. His sheep and beef farm is a romney stud as well as finishing angus cattle.