Valma Kuriger lives in Inglewood but, as TSR for the Farm Source stores in Opunake and Pungarehu, she spends a lot of her time on the other side of the mountain.
Valma supports about 250 coastal farms from Okato to Opunake, ranging in size from 100 cows to 1100.
She’s been in the role for a couple of years now , but has many years’ experience both in the field, and as a 50/50 sharemilker in Kaponga. Initially as a newcomer to Coastal Taranaki, it took a while to build relationships with her customers.
“But now my phone rings all the time with farmers saying ‘hey can you come out here and help’, and I love that.”
A lot of those calls recently have been about winter cropping. “There’s been a lot of winter cropping going in and a lot of undersowing.”
The day we catch up with Valma she was driving back from a visit to a farmer wanting advice on seed options for a paddock that, like most of Taranaki, was particularly dry.
“Since about October the focus for us is the drought around the mountain. So at the moment it’s just about seeing farmers to discuss their options for feed and supplements and supporting them through that,” says Valma.
Coastal Taranaki farms have been hit hard by the drought. The usual dry spell started weeks earlier than usual last year, with an official drought declared in December. The Ministry for Primary Industries classified the drought as a medium-scale event that would last six months.
Silage and hay has been sent by farmers around New Zealand to help Taranaki farmers affected by drought.
Valma says despite the challenges, the Taranaki farming community is resilient and there has been great support from the Rural Support Trust.
“The Rural Razzle (a core group of organisations who share a similar vision to build healthier, stronger communities), also put on a meal at the Opunake golf course recently which was great for the community spirit.”
Helping farmers plan and be pro-active about making good business decisions about agronomy and nutrition is a particularly rewarding aspect of Valma’s role.
“One of my clients has a couple of farms and he has an amazing late kale crop he’s going to feed out in June. We had both sat down a while ago and worked out what to do and it’s awesome to see it going so well.”
And if Valma wants to call in some extra expertise, her vendor rep specialists from the likes of Agrifeeds, Nufarm and Ballance are just a phone call away.
“Recently I had Bruce from Agrifeeds with me and the only time we could meet up with a couple of farmers was 3pm. So we were out on farm until 9pm. Whatever it takes I do my best to make it happen.”
She says the teams back at the Farm Source stores play a big part.
“It comes back to the store staff as well. I’ve got two stores Opunake and Pungarehu that are fantastic and back me 100%.”