2023 Finalists: Graham and Tess Smith of Miraka Farm – Dairy
Miraka’s diversification means it’s a little farm that’s bucking the trend. While small, its varied revenue streams ensure it is sustainable – in terms of both profit and nurturing the environment.
Dairying with trees to enable diversification is the foundation of Graham and Tess Smith’s farming approach at Miraka, and it is being guided by 34 years of knowledge.
They bought the dairy farm in 1988 and the tree planting began four years later. In 1994, they started planting Paulownia in paddocks around the cows, with the strong, light timber a valuable material for surfboards, musical instruments and fishing lures. In 2020, the Te Awamutu business registered with the Emissions Trading Scheme – enabling it to trade carbon credits which is complemented with forestry consultancy.
Tess and Graham run 77 cows across the 28ha dairy unit, forestry across 9ha and grow Paulownia on 7.2ha.
Miraka Farm is the culmination of years of saving and staying true to their vision –resulting in a beautiful property that has no erosion and zero brown water leaving the property.
Graham uses his extensive knowledge of tree husbandry and earning carbon credits to ensure the right trees are planted in the right place. They are trialing grazeable tree varieties, including a tree lucerne – to feed the cows through summer.
Tess and Graham have been supporters of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards since it began, and have entered to gain knowledge from the judges and to share what they have learned through their unique – possibly world-leading – approach.
Miraka is Tess’s ancestral land which strengthens the couple’s connection to it. To help ensure Miraka stays in the family for future generations, Graham’s son Lance will return this year to help run the farm.
Graham and Tess are the winners of the NZFET Biodiversity Award and Waikato Regional Council Water Protection Award.
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