The Waikato Times headlines this Tuesday morning included a piece about the Waikato “leading a general national upswing in farm sale volumes”.

It seems that the Franklin area is being affected by a new confidence in demand for farm and lifestyle block properties.   Perhaps not quite to the level of demand for Auckland urban properties, but different drivers are at play there.

The upswing in demand for lifestyle blocks is partly being driven by prices in the strong Auckland urban market, (giving Aucklanders the buying power to exit the city for rural space), and partly by retiring farmers.  There was also a lot of interest, but few sales, from international buyers.

As one of those Aucklander’s exiting the city for a rural small block, I absolutely understand why rural living is so appealing.  Outside my home office, the chickens are laying fine eggs, early lambs are bouncing around on all fours, the peaches are near bud burst and the daffs are showing some yellow colour that tells me spring is nigh.

And like many owners of small blocks, what I would like to do is to earn a sustainable living off this land.

A seminar series in the Waiau Pa Community Hall this Sunday is aiming to help people like me, achieve just that: to get more from our lifestyle and small blocks.

Supported by Fieldmaster, the long-time Pukekohe manufacturer of farm machinery, the inaugural Franklin Treecroppers’ smallBlock Sunday Seminar starts at 12 noon on Sunday 21st July.

"The Good Life" by Sarah O'Neil

“The Good Life” by Sarah O’Neil

Seminar topics include retired grower Vicky Mee sharing her experiences on setting up a lifestyle block and marketing product.   Sarah Miskell, from local accounting firm Campbell Tyson, is discussing the financing of rural developments.  Then there is retired farmer Keith Dixon exploring the old saying, “where there is livestock, there is also deadstock”.  Nadene Hall, editor of the popular and informative New Zealand Lifestyle Block magazine, rounds out the seminar series by exploring information sources for productive rural living.

For a $5 cover charge, which includes a cup of tea, the four half-hour seminars are complemented with displays by local community groups such as Franklin Bee Club, Trees For Survival and Fieldmaster.  Local author Sarah O’Neil will be there with her book “The Good Life”, which tells the story of her transformation from city slicker to country gardener.

But on top of these personal drivers to country living, our rural areas offer solutions to many of the challenges our society faces today.

Issues like climate change can be addressed through carbon sequestration and energy farming initiatives.

A lot of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ capital will be invested in solving Auckland’s transport congestion issues.  A more sustainable solution lies in encouraging more people to live and work in our rural areas.

In terms of local economic development, 70% of our productive exports originate in rural areas.  But instead of looking to capitalise on the productive potential of our small blocks, Council planning rules, from both the Auckland and Waikato Districts, seek to constrain rural subdivision.  This is justified on the basis of not undermining the productive potential of rural land.

The irony of this is that small rural blocks can be more productive than large farms.  They offer more employment opportunities, enable a secure and diverse supply of local food and ensure a vibrant countryside where talent will want to live.

If getting more from your small lifestyle block is what you want, then get more information and register your interest at www.ruralconnect.org.nz/smallblock/.

Supported by: the Franklin Branch of NZ Tree Crops Assoc treecroppers-logo
Fieldmaster  Fieldmaster_logo