Kilmisters win supreme award
From gate to plate: Pahiatua beef and lamb impresses judges
Dion and Ali Kilmister, of Pahiatua, won the Supreme Champion 2021 title at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards in Auckland recently for their business Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats.
Head judge Lauraine Jacobs said Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats’ mixed box of beef and lamb was an absolute standout. “Every single cut of meat in that box was incredibly flavourful and tasty, a testament to good farming practices and the natural New Zealand grass-fed lamb and beef that is the envy of farming countries around the world.”
In December the couple entered the Paddock category for the awards (producing meat)— the whole gate-toplate story. In March they sent products for the official judging day and won two gold medals: one for their Mixed Box of Beef & Lamb all produced from their own farms, and one for their dry aged Angus Park Scotch Fillet. They also won a silver medal for their lamb bacon, made in their own butchery shop in Masterton.
The gold medals went into the final awards ceremony where the Kilmisters won the Paddock category, one of six categories. “We won the Supreme Award — we were very stoked when we found out,” said Ali.
It’s the second time Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats has been named Paddock Champion, after winning for their Gourmet Lamb Pack in 2018.
“Dion was up in Auckland with our bank manager, Mike Turner from ASB,” said Ali. ” I couldn’t attend as I was pre-booked speaking at a conference in the South Island.”
Dion finished all the lamb and beef at Brook Farm near the Pahiatua Track. This was bought as a dairy farm and immediately converted to sheep and beef. This was converted 21 years ago to dairy when it was a sheep and beef farm, it’s been taken back to its natural environment. The Kilmisters have owned this farm for three years, one of five farms they have in total.
They use Taylor Preston-Ken Wilson Meats in Wellington for slaughtering. It then comes back to their butchery in Masterton.
“We are getting more and more Pahiatua customers, they can order online and I deliver for the most part myself on the way home to Pahiatua,” said Ali.
“We just sold a farm in Masterton and have bought Pukenui Station in Ashley Clinton just before Takapau, we’ve got 1000ha at our Belmont Farm, which we lease from Greater Wellington Regional Council. Dion’s brother Kerry is a contract manager on this farm and his nephew Chris is up at Pukenui Station. We are also just settling into Glenbervie, a farm purchased in the Hinemoa Valley, Pahiatua.
“We both travel to have monthly meetings with our farm managers — there is a lot of time spent in the car, clearly we both like driving. With the
right staff in the right place, it makes the wheels turn well.
“For staff longevity we do it a bit differently, we have contract managers, that gives them a little bit more buy-in. It gives them an opportunity to earn more money by working smarter, they also have on-farm KPIs for calving and lambing percentages.
“We use Cloudfarmer, where all the information is stored in the cloud, it makes it easy as there is an app on the managers’ phones, information is always up to date. We are running the business flat out, never a dull moment, it’s pretty fast paced,
it’s the way we like it; so its really handy to have all the information for the farms stored in one place.
“I’m a city chick, I met Dion nine years ago, when I came out to the farm for the first time and we ate lamb for dinner. I thought ‘this doesn’t taste like what I get in the supermarket.’ It was really different.
“That started us talking and thinking about what we could do beyond the farmgate. I had this passionate drive to get that meat that we were eating back to my city friends — it started from there.
“We began with an online meat business, Home Grown Farm Fresh Meats, that was four years ago. Joe at Joe’s Meat Market in Masterton was doing all the cutting up of the carcasses for us. I would just go in and pack the boxes and pop them on the courier.
“In 2019, Joe had another opportunity so we jumped at the chance to buy the butchery from him. We closed it down after six weeks’ trading and getting a feel for it all and revamped it. It opened up in late September 2019 as Homegrown Butcher Deli and Pantry. We still have some of the original staff with new ones added.
“Neither Dion nor I had ever done retail, it’s been quite a journey — it’s a whole new beast — excuse the pun!
“It was a natural progression to have our own butchery. It’s a dual butchery, it’s got home-kill as well as retail, then we also have online and wholesale. Between those four platforms, it does keep the staff quite busy. No two days are the same, which is pretty cool.
“On Saturdays, Dion and I are in the butchery together. We are the Saturday crew, no front-of-house staff on Saturdays. If people are wanting to speak to us, they’re guaranteed us on the weekend but I am pretty much there Wednesday till Saturday.
“There’s a lovely feel in the butchery, quite relaxed but it’s taken a while, we love that people not only come in to buy their meat, they also get an experience. We offer advice on how to cook a cut of meat as well as for good taste and quality.
“We wrap the meat in old-fashion butchers’ peach paper, we have old traditional butchery methods but in a modern and funky setting. We’ve also eliminated 95 per cent of plastic with our environmentally friendly thinking, which we are quite proud of.
There is hot food on sale: hot meat sandwiches (lamb, beef and pork), with all the trimmings. There is pork crackle, pulled lamb and beef, smoked brisket pasties and sausage rolls.
There are even bones and dog food for farm and domestic dogs.
“Our business is both a passion and a dream,” said Ali. “I’ve found my home, it’s really lovely. Obviously, I was a country girl all along.”
Dion and Ali scored well for their brand story and marketing. Some of the judging comments were: “The actual meat was tender, juicy with meaty aroma and beef flavour and the roast lamb aroma. We really wanted to tuck in. Very tender meat all the way through. Beautiful colour, caramelised fats, sweet, lingering lamb flavour, pure lamb flavour, same for racks — equally as good. Steak was tender, mellow and pure — pure beefiness.”
On an Instagram post are the words “Say hello to this year’s Supreme Champions.”
I’m a city chick, I met Dion nine years ago, when I came out to the farm for the first time and we ate lamb for dinner. I thought ‘this doesn’t taste like what I get in the supermarket.’ It was really different. Ali Kilmister