Naturally raised free range pigs and free range chickens

Life on Te Rata Family Farm

A typical day at Te Rata Family Farm starts at about 6am, when Bert gets up, and heads out on to the farm, a dog or two following along behind.

The morning round includes checking on all the chickens, picking up eggs, feeding the dogs and the house cow and just seeing that all is well with the menagerie of beasts and birds.

Pedigree tamworth pigsMeanwhile, Rebecca tends to the domestic front, getting breakfast in front of James (11), Miriam (10), Lillian (6) Sarah (4) and Andy (2) and getting the household ready for the day.

About 7.15am Bert heads back in for breakfast - which invariably features Te Rata Family Farm eggs, bacon and sausages, and often the jam Rebecca makes from the massive crop of strawberries they grow using manure from the henhouses.

Around 8.30am, after chores it's school time. A qualified teacher, Rebecca gets a real kick out of homeschooling. It fits with the family's philosophy about life, and allows the children to be part of the day-to-day running of the farm. And although the formal teaching is done in the schoolroom that Bert built in a section of the old shearing shed they've converted into a house, learning continues all day as the children join their parents in the busy life of running a farm.

Free range chickensHis farmhouse breakfast under his belt, Bert gets on with feeding the pigs; which includes broken eggs from the hen houses and pastry (leftovers from a pastry manufacturer in Auckland) and any job he's assigned himself for the day - anything from fencing way up the back of the farm, to driving a load of free range eggs to the FRENZ packhouse in Auckland.

With five children and a domestic menagerie that includes Penelope the house cow, Bela and Flynn the dogs, Cirrus, Sunshine Kate, Hurricane and Snowy the goats, various pet lambs, Holly and Tiger the cats, Captain, James and Bigglesworth the budgies and very often (unnamed) chickens in the garden, Rebecca is never short of jobs for the day. Nevertheless, she finds time to take an active part in the community, serving on the committee of the local Toy Library and being part of the team that runs Paparoa Mainly Music.

It's this community involvement that really appeals. To many people, Paparoa might look like a one-horse town (which it is!), but after years of living in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Indonesia, Bert and Rebecca really value the local community. Bert especially enjoys pitching in with neighbouring farmers for jobs like haymaking, crutching and docking, and preaching at two of the local churches.

In the late afternoon, Bert's back around the chooks, feeding them, collecting the last few eggs and generally checking that all is well. With 12,000 chickens of them to tend to as well as the rest of the farm to run, it's no surprise that he employs a bit of help - from staff as well as James, and Miriam, Lillian and Sarah, who earn their pocket money by collecting eggs.