Workshop Report: Rich Pasture at the Graham Farm

Report by Steve Hart

The successful “Rich Pasture” Workshop at Bruce and Sue Grahams 60 acre organic hay farm on February 25th was attended by 20 participants.

Bruce and Sue have been evolving the hay operation for 6 yrs with 40 previous yrs of maize. One could imagine what the soils were like after such a regime.

The soils were devoid of vitality and biological vibrance. The mineral structure has been balanced but biology was lacking. Further soil tests are due this winter. The next solid fertiliser regime could see the addition of a considerable amount of carbon in the form of “BioChar”. We recognised the building up of an active biology could be one of the first management steps to evolve. Animal manures would be the easiest to apply with sources available locally. All forms of manure would stimulate the biologies. This must be an ongoing exercise. There is no grazing of stock so importing of manures is needed. These could be spread solid or liquid mixed with other key product like worm tea, seaweed and fish as well as Biodynamic elements mainly Etherics 1000 by Molasses could be added as well to stimulate the biological activities.

If spread solid they could be added to composts, wood chip or old wood peel.

The soils would also benefit from aeration by a chisel plough. The Yeomans Plow
being one of the best on the market presently. Agents This could be a valuable investment to hire to local farms.

The whole farm is wind swept and would gain considerably by a lot more shelter. Although there is a passionate focus on natives there are many more species that could be highly beneficial. Poplar, Willow, Birch, Pseudoacacia and Alder grow quickly and add many benefits. Camelia are beneficial for bees through winter. Acacia Baileyana is also quick growing and valuable for bees also. The native Rewarewa is also a very valuable bee tree. A wide range of native shrubs could fill all spaces beneath the canopy trees. Added to this could be many fruit trees especially peach and apple. 

The existing watercourses could be developed by extensive ponds and a wide range of  planting.

The key to a rich pasture obviously comes from the soil. This will be an ongoing programme. The pasture species can also be developed considerably by addition to a far wider range of species. NZ lacks a seed company offering an extensive range. Such will need to be aggressively sought to be able to develop a rich diversity of pasture. More clovers, and rye varieties, vetch, burnet, sorrel, lotus, lucern, salsify can be easy additions.  


“For those of you who could not attend this excellent day we managed to find 24 different species in the hay paddock….including a few we had trouble identifying.”

“Found the networking and informal sharing of information and resources invaluable.”

“The sharing of knowledge and what others are up to in their respective organic worlds is absolutely fabulous.”

“It is of huge value to hear what everyone is up to and their trials and tribulations so to speak – great to work together.”

“Had a great day yesterday and learnt so much but obviously so much more to learn.”

“Great to look at the pasture but even have a closer look at the soil and being around like minded people was a great day.”



Visit the event for more information:

Leave a Reply