When Tony Stevens was a child he had two big dreams: to be an All Black and to be a musterer. Although the All Blacks never called, for the last 10 years he has been living his mustering dream.
In 2011 Jenna and Tony took the leap and purchased Mt Benger Station just outside of Roxburgh. Converted from perendale to merino, it was the first farm in the area to change hands for quite a while so there was some obvious nerves, however, these were immediately calmed on their first day when the local shearing contractor popped in for a beer, closely followed by the next-door neighbour with scones. The close-knit community reminded them of growing up in Southland and eased their transition.
However, it did not come without its challenges. Their regenerative approach to growing went against the grain and they struggled with the lack of examples or support for these techniques. Through trial and error, they found techniques that were not only better for the animals and the environment but didn't break the bank. When they first started on this journey, they found it hard to measure successes, as most bench marking system were funded by pesticide and synthetic fertiliser companies. With ZQRX, The New Zealand Merino Company is filling this gap to provide support for growers wanting to make ethical choices.
There are a few smaller hands to assist Tony and Jenna, their children Mack (12), Tommy (11) and Matilda (7) love getting out on farm to help. There is no surprise that when asked what they want to do when they grow up, both boys have the same dreams as dad. The Stevens family also includes 7 dogs all affectionately named by the kids; Boo Boo, Fi Fi, Daffodil, Bob, Panda, Pirate and Rosie who are all an integral part of the farm.
Jenna and Tony have always been passionate about the environment and making ethical decisions. They started their farming journey on a hill country farm in the north of southland, that they converted to organic. So it was second nature for them to continue these practices when they transitioned to merino. Their experience farming in Southland meant they were used to smaller hills and much more rainfall, so Mt Benger and Merino sheep provided a new challenge for them. Merinos are bread for the high country and love working their way down from the top. In their early days it was key for them to figure out how to muster blocks and the quantity of stock per block that works best both for the land and the stock. Over the years they have contoured their land and scrub to provide shade and shelter for their flock. They are incredibly mindful of letting their sheep wander, allowing them the freedom to roam through each block.
The mustering schedule also revolves around the seasons. In the summer months to avoid the heat and ensure the flocks comfort they muster in the early mornings or evenings. This combined with their close proximity to Lake Roxburgh allows for some special family moments, like picking the kids up from the school bus to head for an after-school water ski before the evening muster. In the winter Tony also doubles as the Roxburgh junior rugby coach, instilling the All Blacks dream in the next generation.
Jenna and Tony are passionate about merino fibre and its superiority over synthetics. It is their passion that filters into the care of their flock and produces the best quality most ethical wool. We are proud to be on the ZQRX journey with Jenna and Tony, collectively we can create a better future for the planet.