|Lincoln-Westoe Trust and Westoe Farm|
Further big news is the announcement by the newly-formed Lincoln-Westoe Trust of its acquisition of Westoe Farm for exclusive use by Lincoln University in training and demonstration.
This deal has been in the making for two years. It began when the University’s Professor Jonathan Hickford brought the possibility of the University acquiring Westoe Farm or working with the then Westoe Trust following a conversation by him with its then chairman, Cliff Heath. We swung into action immediately because Westoe Farm, located in the Rangitikei, offered an ideal base for LincolnFirst Telford Division’s training in much of the lower of Te Ika a Maui (North Island).
Westoe drystock Farm covers 418ha and comprises two river terraces, one bounded by the Rangitikei River and the other bounded by State Highway One. It is positioned 5kms north of Bulls. The soils are excellent and the farm is beautiful. It has been owned by the Howard family for generations. Current owners Jim and Diana Howard, with the support of their family, wanted to see the farm pass permanently into a training facility. This same family in the past generation gifted the land that now comprises Smedley Cadet Training Farm in the Hawke’s Bay.
The University began a negotiation with the Howards to write a whole new Trust deed and create the Lincoln-Westoe Trust. This Trust is chaired by The Chancellor of Lincoln University and also has on it the Vice-Chancellor and the GM Corporate Services Murray Dickson, as well as Jim Howard and a nominee of his, local farmer David Marshall. The Lincoln-Westoe Trust acquired Westoe Farm and with it the $4.25million of debt, which is financed with a loan from the farm’s initial sponsor, Rabobank. The balance of the farm’s value, which Rabobank believes is currently approximately $8million, will be gifted to the Trust by the Howard family in two tranches – 30 months and five years hence - as Lincoln University through its LincolnFirst Telford Division trains students on the farm.
Westoe Farm will be used to train predominantly (but not exclusively) young people in drystock agriculture. However, adjacent to the Farm is the old Westoe Homestead with nationally significant gardens. Consequently, LincolnFirst Telford also plans to use the revitalisation of the gardens as a training vehicle in horticulture and arboriculture. What we have here is a magnificent piece of New Zealand’s history.
There will be a second use for Westoe Farm - demonstration. The aim is to use the farm as a property to finish lambs and raise and finish beef cattle. In time the University will perform scientific monitoring of the farm’s performance (nutrient discharges, emissions, forages and livestock, economic etc) and operate demonstration activities. That cannot happen immediately because Westoe needs some upgrade to its infrastructure for this purpose. However, the aspiration of making it a demonstration farm is embedded in the University’s farms strategy and in the Trust’s intent.
The Lincoln-Westoe Trust has selected the local Duncan Land Company (DLC) to manage the farm. DLC is owned and operated by a member of the University’s Farms External Advisory Committee, Charlie Duncan. Charlie and Jo Duncan own and farm two well-known, long-established and large hill country sheep and beef farms to the west of Hunterville; Otiwhiti and Pukeroa Stations. These have been in the Duncan family for generations. This allows Westoe to access store lambs and also means that our training can be backward integrated to sheep breeding in classes six and seven land. The Duncan family are well-known philanthropists that support training of young people in agriculture.
Lincoln University employs seven staff in Feilding comparatively just down the road. These staff work for Farmsafe and the newly registered Farmskills. Farmsafe will be using Westoe Farm in support of our LincolnFirst Telford Division – again, the farm’s location is ideal.
Finally, Westoe Farm will support the University’s new MoU with Te Runanga o Ngati Apa. The Chairman of Ngati Apa, Pahia Turia, spoke at the launch of the Lincoln-Westoe Trust on Westoe Farm. Other speakers included chairman of the Trust, Tom Lambie; sponsor Rabobank, Hamish Midgely; and benefactor, Jim Howard. The then Associate Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment the Hon Tariana Turia attended along with many other dignatories and local farmers. Ngati Apa, Atihau – Whanganui Incorportation and the local Dalrymple family (also on our Farms External Advisory Committee) recently acquired Flock House Farm and renamed them Te Hou Farms. These farms can also be used for training and education – they include a 1,000 cow dairy farm, forestry and cropping using sophisticated precision agriculture.
Many people have worked to achieve this result. I especially acknowledge commercial adviser and Chairman of our Farms External Advisory Committee, Ross Hyland who has worked for the best part of two years on this initiative. I also want to reinforce the Chancellor’s statements made at the launch – the amazing vision and generosity of the Howard family has made all this possible. The University will be formally recognising the Howards later this year.
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