A Global Industry from A New Perspective: Agriculture in New Zealand

Kiwifruit, deer, avocados, dairy goats…..Oh my!

The diversity of agriculture is really amazing when you explore it globally!

Iowa State University has taken me on yet another adventure exploring agriculture. Recently, I was able to study abroad for two weeks with 23 other College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students and faculty to New Zealand, exploring their agriculture. How awesome it was to see their diversity of agriculture through the lens of a producer, by stepping straight onto their farms, learning first hand from them.

Agriculture is important to the United States, there is no doubt about that!  Agriculture continues to play a vital role in our culture and economy. The same statement rings true, loud and clear, in New Zealand. Over 95% of agricultural products they produce are exported to different countries. Visiting New Zealand exposed me to the true global nature of agriculture along with its’ extreme diversity.

IMG_1679.JPGKiwifruit’s ancestor came over to New Zealand from China by a school teacher in 1904. Originally named the monkey fruit in China, the school teacher gave the seeds to an orchard owner, after some selective breeding, the kiwi was cherry sized. After more breeding, a New Zealand native had bred the famous oval shaped kiwifruit by the 1930’s. Did you know kiwifruit vines have male and female flowers on separate vines? Orchards are typically planted with a one male tree to four female vine ratio. In order for any fruit to be produced, bees must come in to pollinate the flowers. Four beehives to the acre is the running recommendation. Once the kiwi is harvested it is exported to mainly China, Europe, and the U.S.

IMG_1857.JPGDeer are an agricultural product in New Zealand. Not what you expected, right? Me either. We stepped foot on a diversified livestock farm that had sheep, beef cattle, and deer. Deer are ruminants, just like sheep and beef! Meaning, they can eat grass (high forage diets) and convert it to energy their bodies use to produce yummy meat called venison. Venison is not the only prized possession of deer farming though. While visiting with the producer, we learned that velvet was another prized product harvested from the deer yearly. The antlers are cut off under veterinary supervision through a sterile and safe process while they still have velvet on them. The antlers are then frozen and shipped to the Asian market, mainly China. The velvet is used for its’ medicinal properties, which may include lowering blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and curing migraines.

IMG_1732.JPGGuacamole anyone? Sixty-five percent of avocados from New Zealand are grown in the Bay of Plenty. Did you know they grow on trees kept under 10 meters tall? Avocado fruit is also pollinated by honey bees. Once the fruit is set, it hangs on the tree for 12-18 months, until the desired size is reached, or the market is ready because they won’t ripen until they are picked. Farmers export 75% of their crop, mainly to Australia and Asia.

Dairy goats have grown in popularity in New Zealand because of their niche market to make baby formula, claimed to be more similar to a human’s milk. Yes, you heard me right! Dairy goat baby formula is all the rage in the Asian and European market, selling for around $45. Dairy goats are milked just like dairy cows, the milk is harvested, brought to the Dairy Goat Cooperative where it is processed, and spray dried to make the prized baby formula. All but a few goat producers send their milk to the Dairy Goat Cooperative to be made into infant formula.

The four mentioned above are simply four of the many operations we toured in New Zealand. I could write for days about pastoral based dairy farming, blueberries, sheep, vineyards, nitrogen credits, maize (who knew Pioneer, yes the same company in Johnston, Iowa would have an independent counterpart in New Zealand, named Genetic Technologies), beef farms, soils, forestry, and much, much more!

IMG_2413.JPGThe diversity of agriculture is breathtaking. Global agriculture is astonishing.

I encourage you, if you ever have the opportunity, go! Explore agriculture abroad, you will not regret the amazing experience awaiting you.

-Lizzy Widder is a student at Iowa State University. She had recently been involved in Ag in the Classroom as the county contact for Dallas Co.

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