If you google ‘Farm Source Culverden’, the results include a handful of five-star reviews left by grateful customers. You might assume these hark back to the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, when the store became something of a command centre as the community rallied to support those affected. But in fact, most of the reviews are recent, posted within the past year – which, coincidentally, happens to be around the time Jen Kay joined the Culverden family as TSR.
Jen says the store is simply an example of the Farm Source ‘Our Place’ concept working really well for the community.
"It’s a community meeting place where farmers come to chat with each other and, from what people have said to us, the store really represents the ‘hub’ working as it should," she says of the store which was one of the first ‘hub’ stores built.
"I wasn’t here when [the earthquake] happened but I’ve seen photos and spoken to a few of the farmers over in Kaikoura and heard the stories about how Fonterra and Farm Source really stepped up to support that community – it’s quite humbling really," says Jen.
Originally from Northland, Jen and husband Gavin moved to the South Island a few years ago, initially to manage a 157 hectare (ha) dairy farm south of the Hurunui river. The family recently moved again, this time to a farm in Culverden. Their decision to move from Northland was made after enduring a series of adverse events there.
"One of the big reasons we moved down here was to get ourselves into a situation where we were farming in an area where we could control outcomes. Every farm we were on up north flooded and we had droughts and all that sort of stuff which is quite demoralising. Down here, you can feed your cows well, they produce well, they’re in a healthy environment and they just thrive. And that’s more rewarding," says Jen.
"But we learned to cope with a lot of adversity and poor conditions [in Northland], so I consider it a really good training ground," says Jen.
Jen has spent the last 17 years dairy farming but, after severely injuring her back in a bicycling accident 18 months ago, she "can’t actually physically farm anymore".
Recovering from the accident took eight long months and she applied for the Culverden TSR job "on a bit of a whim, not thinking I really had a chance of getting it. But it’s turned out to be a perfect solution for me. It keeps me involved in talking ‘cows and grass’ with farmers and dealing with farmers who I know in the community".
Jen primarily covers the Culverden basin with a few 'outlying’ areas too. Herd sizes in her catchment range from around a few hundred cows to a business with 5,000 cows across three farms.
Thanks to her extensive farming background, Jen says pasture management is her thing. "That was my role on farm – to deal with the cows and the grass and animal health and, obviously, calves." Jen has really enjoyed building her agronomy knowledge as a TSR and knows where to find expertise should her farmers need it – either through the newly appointed Technical Agricultural Specialist for Farm Source Canterbury, Russell Hamilton, or the store's specialist vendor reps.
"One of the best things about Farm Source, compared to other businesses, is we aren’t directly affiliated with seed companies or anything like that, so we can offer farmers a variety of cultivars and seeds from a variety of different companies – whatever is going to best suit their situation," says Jen.
Being part of a small rural community, Jen says the support and career progression the Co-op provides is important. Rather than simply being a supplier, Farm Source is committed to building a team of capable, passionate and knowledge experts who deliver cutting edge value to help farmers achieve their goals.
"I see it with our store managers – young people who have got lots of opportunity to build their skills and progress through the business."