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Farmer profile: David and Millie Harper Braided Rivers, Rakaia Gorge

David and Millie Harper of Braided Waters along with their daughter’s partner Michael run a mix of leased and owned properties on the north bank of the Rakaia Gorge. A complex farming system already, their decision to join The Omega Lamb Project was a considered one.

“We learned a lot during a couple of days in Omarama with the farmers last year. When we got back, though, we had to sit down and really think about how we were going to make it work in our farming business,” David says.

“We’ve grown chicory in the past and we’ve been looking to do more finishing. But although the chicory would be a relatively small part of the farm area, we could see it having quite an impact on the rest of the business.”

One of the key considerations was what to do with the chicory outside the December/January/February finishing window.

“We haven’t yet mastered cattle on chicory and we think the answer is to bring deer on to the block.”

They say the logistical challenges created an opportunity to consider their farming system through fresh eyes.

“In that sense, the challenge of setting up and streamlining the new system is an opportunity in itself. We’ve been in the industry for a lot of years and you have to be open to new ideas – you have to do something different because doing the same thing clearly isn’t working as well as it should.”

The opportunity they saw was also in the teamwork. “This is a huge team effort, from beginning to end, and we’ve really appreciated the support we’ve received.”

The Harpers are lovers of good, naturally produced food, and being able to taste test their product is important to them.