Jaz Mathisen talks to us about how she combines her two passions—technology and rural life on Awakino Station, Kurow.
A conversation with Jaz Mathisen cannot fail to leave you inspired, and a peek at the gorgeous photos on her Instagram page might leave you just a little bit jealous!
Jaz and husband Dan Devine farm high country station Awakino in Kurow. The station is 7,500 hectares and stretches from the Waitaki River to the Awakino skifield and beyond. The farm is a mix of river flats used for finishing stock with the use of irrigation and tussock dotted high country. Jaz and Dan have been at Awakino for five years and using Cloud Farmer for the past three years.
A busy mother of two, Jaz reels off farming information and breeding plans while juggling three month old Ida, who has just had her shots. Today, four year old Ava is at preschool, so Jaz’s little farm helper is missing in action. While motherhood has impacted her time in recent years, Jaz still does the farm’s pasture cover monitoring, cooking for the hands, wool classing and feeding orphaned animals with the help of Ava. As Jaz says “it’s not about giving up what you love when you become a Mum, it’s about adjusting your life so that you are able to teach that small sidekick everything about what you love.”
Jaz is well known for her beautifully photographed and worded Instagram page where she has over 4,000 followers. A firm believer in farm to table, she posts about eating seasonally, vegetable gardening, local produce, and of course home grown beef, venison, lamb, pork and eggs. Like the pioneering women who went before, perhaps with a few more mod cons, Jaz embodies living off the land, using her very productive vegetable garden and the orchard on the lawn of the original homestead to create amazing meals, preserves, pickles and chutney. “I love that my food has a story behind it.”
While the Instagram page has some fabulous recipes Jaz also uses it as a means to share what is happening on farm, from mustering fawns, tailing lambs, shearing to feeding orphans, as well as the pony rides, vegetable garden preparation and exploring the beautiful station. With both farming and city dwelling followers, Jaz is doing her bit to bridge the urban-rural divide.
Jaz grew up in on a small family farm in Tinui, Wairarapa, and moved to Hanmer Springs with her family when she was 15. She studied agriculture, worked on a dairy farm, travelled and then while shepherding met Dan who was the stock manager on the farm she was working at.
Awakino Station is Dan’s family farm—Dan’s grandfather bought it after retirement, as he’d always dreamed of owning a high country station. Dan is the first family member to run the farm fulltime, and Dan’s sister handles the accounts and bookwork. With six full time staff it’s always busy and Jaz prepares lunches for three full time shepherds daily plus her family, but this increases during the busy periods. With casuals and summer staff that number can increase to 10, as well as smokos on busy days.
Dan returned to Awakino in 2016 and wanted to be able to record everything—up till then it was spreadsheets and notebooks and bits of paper scattered around. His research led him to Cloud Farmer after finding other recording software available was either expensive, overly complicated, or had mixed reviews.
Awakino runs around 8,000 ewes, 1,200 hinds and 500 cattle. The 500 breeding cows are mainly Hereford, with Angus bulls used over heifers and Hereford bulls over mixed age cows. Awakino buys 1,000 merino lambs each year to fatten and meat is supplied to Silere and sold as Silere Alpine Origin Merino. Awakino winters 24,000 stock units. Merino wool is also supplied to NZ Merino through contracts and is distributed from there to various companies including Jigsaw, Smartwool, Glerups and Allbirds.
Deer were introduced on Awakino in the late 1990s when deer were cheap due to the downturn. At that same time deer fencing was the same price as sheep fencing so it was a relatively cheap venture to get into. Deer are mustered by helicopter, pushing them up through gullies and scrub to the skyline and the main deer lane. “We’ve been building up the hind numbers over the last five years with approx 1,200 mixed aged hinds now and fatten all progeny. In-calf hinds are bought in each year making it a simple operation.” says Jaz. The flexibility of Cloud Farmer means Dan and the team can use it for the deer as well as the sheep and cattle. “We use Cloud Farmer to record scanning percentages, weaning percentages, growth rates for weaners and also all the animal husbandry— velveting, vaccinations, drenches etc. It isn’t individual recordings but mob averages so we can see what paddocks have performed well over calving or growth rates on fodderbeet for weaners over winter.” says Jaz.
Jaz’s main focus on farm is health and safety where she leads a monthly meeting around the table. Being able to add her template into Cloud Farmer each month and update the jobs list means that everyone is aware of what is going on.
Jaz said “Cloud Farmer suits what we do—very simple, not complicated and our workers all have the app and are responsible for uploading information as they work. Our tractor driver is continually updating paddock and chemical information.” As Dan said earlier, “the app is so fast for the team when they’re out on the farm. Inputting is a breeze and no waiting around for pages to load. Working offline is brilliant!”