Emily Ryves

Hilli Goat Farm www.face­book.com/Hil­ly­goat/

NZ Lifestyle Block - - FEATURE -

Third gen­er­a­tion is­lan­der Emily has turned her life­style block into a qui­etly thriv­ing tourism ven­ture. She was work­ing as a flight at­ten­dant for govern­ment-owned Nor­folk Air when it be­came ap­par­ent the car­rier wouldn’t be op­er­at­ing for much longer. While look­ing for al­ter­na­tive em­ploy­ment, she hap­pened upon a documentary on lead­ing Aus­tralian cheese mak­ers Carla Meurs and Ann-marie Monda from Holy Goat in Vic­to­ria. Although their life­style looked far from easy, Emily says she’s al­ways up for a chal­lenge and was im­me­di­ately at­tracted to it.

A Churchill re­search grant later, and she’d em­barked on her own goat jour­ney in­clud­ing hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence with milk­ing and cheese-mak­ing on a main­land farm, and a stint with the Holy­goaters them­selves. She was ready go or­ganic goat farm­ing, Nor­folk Is­land-style.

Chal­lenge num­ber one was pretty big – there were no goats on Nor­folk Is­land. When Emily ap­proached the lo­cal quar­an­tine staff about her de­sire to im­port the an­i­mals, they ut­tered an ex­ple­tive she’s re­luc­tant to re­peat.

But that didn’t mean sup­port wasn’t forth­com­ing. In true, gen­er­ous Nor­folk Is­land-style, the staff set about mak­ing it work, and 15 months af­ter fil­ing the nec­es­sary pa­per­work with Can­berra au­thor­i­ties, they were fi­nally able to report back to Emily that Op­er­a­tion Goat was a go-er. There was only one prob­lem: by this time, Emily was preg­nant with her first child and al­most ready to de­liver.

Birthing on Nor­folk Is­land isn’t an op­tion so with just one day to go be­fore

she had to head out to Aus­tralia to wait for baby Char­lie to make his ap­pear­ance, the five goats ar­rived care of oblig­ing Air New Zealand. Emily im­me­di­ately placed the an­i­mals un­der the watch­ful eye of her fa­ther (who had never looked af­ter goats be­fore), packed her bags and left. While she bonded with her new baby, the goats be­gan to call Steve ‘Dad’, and still do.

Tourists aren’t the only ones who en­joy Nor­folk Is­land’s balmy sub-trop­i­cal cli­mate. Its steady year-round tem­per­a­tures reach­ing highs of 26°C and a com­fort­able level of pre­cip­i­ta­tion (rain con­ve­niently falls al­most al­ways at night) makes it ideal for goats. Just as im­por­tantly, the an­i­mals are good for the is­land. De­spite cau­tions from main­land farm­ers who doubted the suc­cess of a flock de­prived of hay (a crop which doesn’t grow on Nor­folk), Emily re­searched al­ter­na­tives and came up with African olive ( Olea eu­ropaea subsp. cus­p­i­data) as a fod­der. The goats devour it as their food of choice and have thrived, but even bet­ter, the olive is a pest plant on the is­land so it’s a win­win sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­one.

Feed is sup­ple­mented with or­ganic pel­lets (for the milk­ers), home-grown corn, hibis­cus and mul­berry prun­ings, ba­nana leaves, vege trim­mings and sweet potato vines. It all lends it­self to a de­li­ciously unique cheese which Emily makes on-site in a pur­pose-built fa­cil­ity, and sells at the is­land’s Satur­day morn­ing farmer’s mar­ket.

This would be suc­cess in it­self but Nor­folk Is­lan­ders don’t rest on their lau­rels. On this is­land, the tourist dol­lar is the main source of in­come and most farm­ing res­i­dents have more than one string to their bow (and sev­eral jobs). En­ter Emily’s next big chal­lenge: to es­tab­lish farm tours and wel­come tourists to Hilli Goat Farm.

There are the cutest of an­i­mals to see and pet, fine cheeses, and an or­ganic or­chard and kitchen gar­den of­fer­ing in­gre­di­ents for the fresh­est of sump­tu­ous, slow-cooked feasts, so the ven­ture was a suc­cess wait­ing to hap­pen.

To top it all off, Emily’s par­ents Steve and Ali­son are well-known Nor­folk Is­land pot­ters who live just a stone’s throw from Emily and part­ner Zach’s home, and were al­ready open­ing the doors of their stu­dio to vis­i­tors. Ali­son is a dab hand with a kiln and an oven, bak­ing de­li­cious home­made bread to ac­com­pany the lav­ish plat­ters of farm fare that await vis­i­tors.

the day be­fore her five goats ar­rived, Emily left to have her baby.

But amidst the book­ings and gen­tle bus­tle, Emily is adamant that small and sus­tain­able is the way she wants to grow her busi­ness.

“I was brought up with my par­ents work­ing from home, and I want that for our son too. It’s im­por­tant for me to be able to in­cor­po­rate fam­ily life into my daily rou­tine of cheese mak­ing, cook­ing and shar­ing with vis­i­tors.”

A quick glance round the milk­ing shed, where Char­lie’s paints and toy bike wait for his next milk­ing-hour visit con­firms this is ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing.

“I want my cheeses to fea­ture at lo­cal restau­rants and shops and to sup­port our farm tours. And if they be­come at­trac­tive to a bou­tique in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, I’m open to that too. But I’ll al­ways go with the ‘small is beau­ti­ful’ ap­proach first.”

Emily’s phi­los­o­phy is un­der­stand­able on an is­land of just over 2000 res­i­dents where al­most ev­ery­thing eaten is sea­sonal and lo­cally grown. Her ex­tended fam­ily – Emily’s chef-brother also lives on the prop­erty – dine from the prop­erty’s or­chard and gar­den, on eggs and meat from their chick­ens, and catch their own fish. Char­lie (2) al­ready knows how to har­vest his din­ner.

That’s why it’s with a cer­tain de­gree of calm that Emily is now ap­proach­ing her lat­est ven­ture, the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing a whole­some skin­care range which will com­bine her own goats’ milk with lo­cal­lypro­duced bee prod­ucts. Goats’ milk is renowned for its heal­ing and health-giv­ing prop­er­ties, and the con­cept dove­tails seam­lessly into her other flour­ish­ing agro-tourism based ac­tiv­i­ties, and also com­ple­ments sev­eral other grow­ing-based ini­tia­tives on Nor­folk Is­land.

Emily’s par­ents’ house, with the fam­ily’s thriv­ing veg­etable gar­den, is one of three fam­ily homes on the small hold­ing.

The ex­ten­sive or­ganic veg­etable gar­den at Hilli Goat Farm

sup­ports Emily, her ex­tended fam­ily, and the an­i­mals.

Nor­folk Is­land’s first goat farmer, Emily Ryves.

Emily’s Hilli goats en­joy prun­ings from hibis­cus, a shrub which thrives in the is­land’s sub-trop­i­cal cli­mate.

Ba­nana leaves are a favourite with the goats, and read­ily avail­able from the fam­ily’s or­ganic or­chard.

Char­lie in the mul­ber­ries.

Slow-cooked feasts are the way to eat when

you visit The Hilli Goat Farm.

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