Cycling lazily through farmland, getting up close to farm animals, smelling the country smells – all this can be a different and special experience for many city dwellers.
The first farmers in Central made their gold from the sheep’s back (their “golden fleece”) – real gold took over for a decade – then it was back to the sheep again. Merino sheep still thrive in the dry hill country bordering the Trail and clothing made from their fine, soft wool has become very desirable in recent years.
Beef cattle, deer and other sheep breeds also do well on the local farms, while the spread of irrigation means that the more profitable dairy farming is now possible. Some farmers are discovering that “dairy support” (grazing other farmers’ dairy cows over winter) is a lucrative use of their land – and the cows seem to like a nice dry winter holiday. Growing crops to sell as stock feed, such as kale or lucerne, is yet another use of the land.
And what about those rabbits? Introduced in the 1870s for game, they soon became a major plague in the dry hills. For a few years millions of them were killed and processed for their meat or fur in Waipiata or Dunedin – now pest control is just another huge cost for farmers.