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Grain plant purchase built on faith

Adrienne and David Wordsworth.

Grain plant purchase built on faith

2004/05 Season

Owners: David and Adrienne Wordsworth
Farm location: Te Kopuru
Farm size: 34 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38P05, 36P08
Number of seasons growing: 7

The satisfaction David Wordsworth gets from growing maize is heightened now he owns the next step in the processing chain.

The Dargaville grain grower and his wife Adrienne bought the local grain drying business Grainco Northland earlier this year from previous owner David Lobb. The purchase represents an investment of confidence in a crop that David has enjoyed planting and harvesting now for seven seasons. The investment in the plant also provides a "beach head" for new growers considering grain growing in Northland.

The Wordsworths grow around 34 hectares on their 94 hectare block at Te Kopuru and have historical links to the crop and the Grainco plant. David says his father first started growing for the family pig farm back in the 70s. Recently the Wordsworths purchased the plant and grain silos off David's parents.

"When Grainco Northland started back in 1997 with a new dryer, things began to grow from there."

Now five growers in the district supply the business growing 250 hectares of maize for grain.

"We are confident we will see more growers come on board next year, and will be working with Pioneer to promote maize grain growing as a good option up here in Northland," says David.

He expects maize grain will appeal to sheep and beef operators wanting to build the crop into their pasture rotation, or to semi-retired land owners seeking a less physical way to keep their land earning.

While not traditionally seen as a maize grain growing area, David says returns and yields are good from two hybrids in particular.

"We tend to favour Pioneer® brand 38P05 and 36B08. 36B08 in particular offers a very good all round agronomic package, it plants well, gets off to a good start and yields very well without any plant health problems."

The 2004-2005 season was climatically challenging. Nonetheless most growers managed to get 12 to 12.5 tonnes per hectare yields. David has made the farm available to Pioneer for hybrid trials and says he has always enjoyed a good working relationship with the Pioneer Representatives in Northland.

David believes the Northland region has as much potential as anywhere for profitable maize growing. "The main challenge around the Dargaville region is the variation in moisture. Things can go from quite wet in the spring to dry very quickly after Christmas." He finds however the deeper, heavier soils hold up well through summer.

Grainco Northland is supplied by growers as far north as Kerikeri, a crop near Whangarei and just north of the Waipoua Kauri forest. "There is further interest from new growers this year," says David.

Grainco specialises in dried maize for local stockfood farm requirements. Ownership from the paddock to the mill gives the Wordsworths the opportunity to manage costs closely and maintain greater control over the harvesting and drying operations. They have invested in capital repairs and maintenance, including upgrading the main elevator at the plant.

"There is the capacity to increase volumes, and the market is there locally for more dried grain, so we are very optimistic," says David.

The couple's agricultural contracting business complements the maize growing and drying operations including planting and harvesting maize around the region.

David and Adrienne's hard work and good business acumen means neither they nor their land are idle once the maize crops have been taken off. Depending on the season they plant annual rye-grasses post harvest enabling them to grow, harvest and sell baled grass silage as well as lease graze dairy heifers on contract.

David admits life is busy, balancing family life with farm and contracting commitments, but he enjoys the challenges and variety the business provides.

"It is very satisfying watching the business grow and looking forward to harvesting the fruits of all our hard work".