The Ealam family, on Cam’s mother’s side, has farmed the same piece of land since 1856.
“We’d been looking for something different for a while, looking at options for the future, we want the farm to support another six generations,” Cam Ealam says.
For the past 80 years the family has been dairy farming, but Cam was keen to look at how the land could have multiple income streams.
“We saw the hop option pop up and thought that would definitely tick some of the boxes.”
So after a few long family discussions the decision was made to convert 35 ha of the 110 ha farm to grow hops.
The key ingredient in beer is going through a renaissance, largely due to the growing popularity of craft beer, and although globally New Zealand represents a tiny part of the market - around 1%* - the hops we grow here are in ever increasing demand both locally and globally.
But change hasn’t come without challenges.
“My family by nature is quite risk adverse so being able to convince my mother and grandparents that it was a good idea was one of the biggest challenges,” Cam says.
“Basically my mother wasn’t going to have a bar of it unless my grandad was on board. Thankfully he was pretty excited about it right from the start so that made it easier to convince mum!”
The investment required was significant. They needed all the machinery required to harvest and process on site – all up they say it’s around $80,000/ha, not including the land. But there will be a significant crop in the first year of production, and with an estimated financial return of 15% to 20%** the Ealam family feel it’s a stronger prospect than traditional pastoral farming.
The family is in a good position – the intergenerational farming model had always been conservative when it came to taking on debt, and the land sits right in the sweet spot for growing hops. Something not lost on previous generations.