The sto­ries of our farm­ers

The Southland Times - - News - Ben Bootsma

With farm­ing in his blood and a mis­sion to share good sto­ries in mind, author Ross Hy­land has achieved just that with his new book Our Land Our Peo­ple: In search of farm­ing ex­cel­lence.

The book was fo­cused on pos­i­tive and good hearted sto­ries about the New Zea­land’s farm­ers and their lives work­ing on the land.

Hy­land said he trav­elled the length of the coun­try find­ing sto­ries of farm­ers who have helped to shape their re­gions.

The books fea­tures South­land farm­ing fam­i­lies, one of which is the Mor­ri­son fam­ily.

This fam­i­lies jour­ney started when a great–great– un­cle Wil­liam Cum­ming landed in New Zea­land from Scot­land in 1862, Hy­land said.

Cum­ming was one of hun­dreds of new set­tlers who had come into the re­gion hop­ing to win a prop­erty by ten­der dur­ing the great land sales in South­land in the 1870s.

He be­gan farm­ing at Grop­ers Bush in South­land be­fore shift­ing to Waikaka Val­ley and buy­ing a prop­erty in 1875 at what was now known as the Wil­low­bank cor­ner. He named his new farm Rosedale.

‘‘This is where Don­ald Mor­ri­son farms to this day.’’

This fam­ily made for a good story be­cause ‘‘Don­ald and An­drew Mor­ri­son have been at the fore­front of change in New Zea­land farm­ing but their story had hum­ble be­gin­nings,’’ Hy­land said.

Go­ing through the book, Hy­land stopped on a page spe­cial to him, a story about the Wal­lis fam­ily who farm at Minaret Sta­tion in Wanaka.

Sir Tim Wal­lis was a pi­o­neer of the live cap­ture of Fiord­land wild deer with he­li­copters, opened avi­a­tion and ad­ven­ture tourism com­pa­nies and started the air­show War Birds of Wanaka, all while still work­ing their land on the sta­tion.

Hy­land went away with the fam­ily on a back­coun­try muster.

‘‘I spent two days with them. They flew me in to see the au­tumn muster. It took us a whole day to walk out with the sheep.’’

Hy­land spent time with the fam­ily prior to broth­ers Nick and Matthew trag­i­cally per­ish­ing in sep­a­rate

‘‘I have no­ticed a re­cent rise in neg­a­tiv­ity to­wards farm­ers from some com­men­ta­tors. This book is unashamedly pos­i­tive and show­cases some great peo­ple.’’ Author Ross Hy­land

he­li­copter crashes in the past four months, shak­ing the close-nit Otago avi­a­tion com­mu­nity.

The broth­ers were both in­ter­viewed and pho­tographed for the book, which went to print be­fore their deaths, Hy­land said.

‘‘This is re­ally quite hard to talk about. They are all so pas­sion­ate about their farm and fly­ing.’’

The for­mer Lin­coln Agritech di­rec­tor is re­vis­it­ing the farms, this time with the fin­ished book in hand.

‘‘I have no­ticed a re­cent rise in neg­a­tiv­ity to­wards farm­ers from some com­men­ta­tors. This book is unashamedly pos­i­tive and show­cases some great peo­ple.’’

The ac­cess he got to farms and farm­ers was based upon a mu­tual re­spect and a want to share the sto­ries of peo­ple in the in­dus­try, Hy­land said. ‘‘It was maybe just the way we went about it. We didn’t talk about the bal­ance sheets and the money. We talk about the peo­ple and their sto­ries.’’

The book, which took over two years to com­plete, shares the story of 24 farms and farm­ers.

Hy­land com­pleted ev­ery in­ter­view, took all but five of the pho­tos, wrote and pub­lished the book him­self.


Ross Hy­land with the his book Our Land Our Peo­ple, which he has writ­ten, and taken the pho­to­graphs for, tells sto­ries about farm­ing around New Zea­land.

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