Mainland Farmers of the Year – amazing Averys

Avery farm, Bonaveree, New Zealand

Bonaveree – Eastern Marlborough

South Island Farmer of the Year is Doug Avery – what a well deserved win!

Awesome farming family, the Averys, of Starborough Flaxbourne Soil Conservation fame (see earlier posts) have shown New Zealand that with clever, collaborative, systems thinking – with dogged determination to leave behind what’s not working and try new ways, farming dryland can be profitable and hugely rewarding.

Doug, with wife Wendy, son Fraser (who Doug reminds us, is the Boss!) and daughter-in-law Shelley, accepted the award at Lincoln University in Christchurch last Friday. Judges had paid two visits to the Avery farm in Grassmere and heard prepared speeches, before announcing their winner.

Fenced off cabbage trees at Bonaveree farm - soon to be joined by a further 50 hectares for regenerating natives
Fenced off cabbage trees at the Avery farm

The family stood out because they had drought-proofed their property by changing the way they farmed, said judge Neil Taylor, also foundation chair.

By integrating animal and plant relationships they have attained very high performance on what is pretty poor country. Where others have partly introduced lucerne to their properties, they have done it across the whole farming system and integrated it with other plants to ensure best results.

Here are some words from Doug, courtesy of the Marlborough Express:

Our family team has gone hard out over the last 10 years to overcome the drying of eastern Marlborough. The last five years of the ’90s was shocking and our system failed. As a family we feel humbled given the standard of the competition. We’re also extremely bloody grateful to the people that have helped us.

Read about the Starborough Flaxbourne Project (Rural Delivery, 2008) here. Doug took Rob Cope-Williams around the farm in October. Here’s the CTV interview:

Doug, you’re out there spreading the word right across the country that here in Godzone we can do farming differently, with less water, and better soil conservation practices. And we can do it and still make money.

The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behaviour of people (John Kotter in H. W Dettmer, 2007:314). With Doug out there changing New Zealand one farm at a time, and Landcare working their magic too, we’re taking small, steady steps to a more secure future for our soil and and water. If we take that leap? Imagine the difference!

Update 2012: Check out Dryland Pastures – a blog from Lincoln University that aims to pass on latest research findings and other information related to farming dryland pastures. You can see on-farm activity and photos from dryland research projects at Ashley Dene (Lincoln Universitys Dryland Research Farm) and from the Marlborough farmers involved in the Technology Transfer for Dryland Farmers project, including from: ‘Bonavaree’ (Doug & Fraser Avery), ‘Breach Oak’ (Warwick & Lisa Lissaman), ‘Pyramid’ (Chris & Julia Dawkins) and ‘Tempello’ (David & Jo Grigg). You can find details about the properties and see farmer presentations from the Dryland Legumes Workshop (2012) at

Update April 2013: Here’s Doug sharing more wisdom and insights into why and how to make the change to better farming systems, like sowing lucerne instead of rye and clover. Research is always going on and one of the latest outcomes we hear about in this video, near a decade on from making the change,  is stock developing noticeably earlier rumen function. Lambs on lucerne wean earlier and have a lifetime better performance. Another gem from Doug is on the benefits of tagasaste or tree lucerne – this attracts and strengthens the bee population, ready for when the lucerne pasture flowers, so the bees stick around to pollinate that too. This is worth watching – definitely:

About robynmmoore

Anything to do with people and the environment and I'm interested! I have been writing and commenting about education, the environment and other community-related matters since 2006. I'm a compulsive researcher. In 2009, I finished a thesis on Kapiti's water issues and am still researching outcomes there. This website and the work I do as a trustee for the Whitireia Foundation are part of my aspiration to contribute to 'shaping more sustainable communities'...also the title of my thesis. Look it up - it's free at
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