Farming the real thing in Mid­dle Earth

Matamata Chronicle - - Out&about - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

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.

PHOTO: GER­ALD PIDDOCK/ FAIR­FAX NZ

Alexan­der Farming Ge­net­ics owner Craig Alexan­der. His sheep and beef farm is a rom­ney stud as well as fin­ish­ing an­gus cat­tle.

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