Dani Darke feels extremely lucky to be farming a beautiful farm in the King Country with her husband Anthony and their three young children. Her role on the farm covers everything from mustering and dagging to strategic planning and financial analysis of their business.
Dani grew up on a small lifestyle block in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Wellington, going to school in the city. After graduating with a degree in Agriculture from Massey University, Dani spent several years as a Rural Bank Manager before heading overseas. On return Anthony and Dani went farming in partnership with his parents. After having children she decided to head back to paid work and was the Livestock Manager for a Lamb and Mutton exporting Company Te Kuiti Meats. This role gave Dani great insight into the supply chain, and in particular it highlighted for her the need to strengthen the relationships, and the understanding farmers have with our consumers.
After purchasing the farm off Anthony’s parents two years ago, Dani is now back on the farm full time. The couple have spent the past two years examining their business and trying to find ways to make it more profitable. Part of this has been the development of 100ha into a bull beef finishing system. Another part has been simplifying it down to key components meaning they have stopped cropping, and have cut down the number of different stock groups. "We are trying to find our ‘Hedgehog Concept’ – something really simple that we can do really well."
Participating in a 12-month Leadership and Governance course in 2016 (AWDT Escalator) helped Dani to crystallise her ‘Why’ around her involvement in the Sheep and Cattle industry.
"For me our industry is all about our rural communities. This is what gives New Zealand its character and has shaped the spirit of our country. But rural communities are quick to stagnate and disappear without profitable farms supporting that environment. Hence my ‘Why’ is all about ensuring rural communities stay vibrant by promoting farming businesses to be more profitable. This has led me on to co-founding a farming business discussion group where we are focussed on being top 20% farmers – in life and in business. It has also driven me to become a member of the Beef + Lamb Farmer Council, and a member of the Board of Trustees for our local primary school."
Dani has recently returned home from a trip with Beef + Lamb to the International Beef Alliance Conference in Paraguay. This was an amazing eye-opening experience for Dani. She got to see first-hand the innovative Paraguay farmers that are achieving some incredible things on their land, and she got a great insight into International Trade and many of the intricacies involved there.
"I am so grateful to be able to call myself a farmer, it has been a lifelong dream, and to me is the ultimate job. I love animals, and feel a maternal bond to every lamb and calf that is born here! I love the environment, the trees and the birds, and we spend time and resources enhancing these special areas on the farm. I get to work with my husband every day, and feel absolutely privileged that we can do this together, even though sometimes we make each other crazy. We are bringing our kids up in a vibrant, supportive, and fun community, and I have no doubt that this will set them up well to become positive contributors to our world.
Dani you have hit the nail on the head, our rural communities are so unique and special. Something, like you, I am sure we all appreciate and want to preserve.