New Zealand, Australia

On Farm Story from New Zealand: Spud family name’s on the packet

James Bowan grows potatoes for a nationwide paddock-to-packet potato chip brand. Nearly a decade after the business started he’s still happiest in the paddock. Tim Fulton reports from New Zealand.

The Bowan family farms more than 600ha at Orari in South Canterbury. Down the road at industrial Washdyke, in the slipstream of Timaru, the family also runs the Heartland chips processing plant.

Fallgate Farm includes 250-odd hectares of spuds, 320ha of combinable cereals,150ha of grass seed and a few other bits and pieces, especially seeds. It adds up to a lot of business from farm to shop shelf but James isn’t bothered with the trappings of corporate hierarchy.

James admits, reluctantly, to being in charge of arable production.

“I suppose I’m … I don’t know how you’d word it but at the top of the ladder maybe, near enough to the top and take care of the day-to-day running of the farm. Overseeing everything that goes with that but still fortunate enough to have a good sound fella to bounce ideas off. It’s good to have him round.”

The sound fella is dad Raymond, who set up Heartland nine years ago in partnership with his wife Adrienne when they bought the old Bluebird factory.

Almost immediately the couple won a major industry award, the Lincoln University South Island Farmer of the Year.

Under James’ watch most of Fallgate’s frying potatoes go to the Heartland plant, which his sister Charlotte has run for the past five years. The Bowans also supply potatoes to Mr Chips and Talleys. 

James says it’s neat being part of an integrated, family-run business. 

“I suppose at the end of the day you get quite a buzz. You walk down the supermarket thinking ‘I grew that spud that’s in that packet of chips that they’ve got’. And you know it’s yours because it’s your product, grew it from start to finish.”

Raymond is still about, keeping everyone on track and thinking up new ideas.

“He’s here on the farm every day, still lives on site, keeps mentioning he’s going to retire but I can’t see it happening to be fair. He’s just one of those breeds that enjoys work … gets satisfaction out seeing and developing new opportunities.”

Read the story of the Bowan family’s spud operation in Farmers Weekly here. Video published here courtesy Farmers Weekly.

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