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Palliser Ridge: Diversifying the Kiwi farm

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90 minutes from Wellington is Palliser Ridge, a sheep and beef farm located in Pirinoa, South Wairarapa. The day to day running of the 1300ha Station is taken care of by Lisa and Kurt Portas, and their team.

Expansion Manager & Director Lisa Portas decided to exchange city life for farm life, but has used her retail skills to help further diversify the business.

“We were brought into the fold at Palliser Ridge with Jim and Marilyn with an equity partnership around seven years ago. And then part of that was to have a look at diversifying the business, we've got this amazing asset here, and we were looking at ways to incorporate some of the skills that we had around the table, which was where I got to come on, which was quite exciting,” Lisa explained.

“We looked at doing, you know, could we do some tourism, could we do something with our own wool and meat and honey and all those kinds of things. So day to day now is catching all the ideas that occurred and the rest of the guys trusted me in deciding which ones to run with.”

Learnings from retail

Not wanting to see their product get off a truck and not know where it’s going, they developed a plan to see how they can see it back in the form of quality retail products. Lisa credits her retail background for a lot of her thinking.

“One of the biggest learnings that I took from being on the other side of things was what I wanted from brands and what I wanted from the people who represented those brands, and kind of looking for products that really fit what consumers were asking for, because the market can be a pretty busy, flooded place sometimes,” Lisa said.

“All of that kind of thing led us back to New Zealand's a pretty proud place. We're all proud of what we do, what we manufacture, and how good to take something that is so connected to so many of us. Everyone's got an uncle on a farm, or memories of being a young kid and visiting someone's farm and just bringing that nostalgia back, but also to support our own economy and our own jobs and our own manufacturing,” Lisa said.


Partnering with locals

Palliser Ridge sells yarn, spun by Woolyarns in Lower Hutt, and runs community knitting events. Partnering with local manufacturers also allowed for larger scale production, transforming yarn into garments.

“We've got a lot of that bespoke kind of yarn and people can go off and make their own bits and pieces. And then we've also been able to partner up with some kind of like minded businesses, like we've got The New Zealand natural Clothing up in Norswood, and Interweave up in Auckland who do you kind of help us fill that gap,” Lisa said.

Tourism was another product added to the basket of offerings, allowing guests to experience the stunning views of the South Island from the southern point of the North Island. A magical place, where people can switch off literally and metaphorically.

“We are probably guilty of taking them for granted when we drive home, oh there's the Kaikoura. That's nice, but it is amazing,” Lisa said.

“I think that was a really common theme for us, there's so many cool things about what we're doing out here every day, we have to share those with people.”

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