Once dairy farmers, the McIntyres now farm and export blueberries. As they could only afford a smaller piece of land, they looked into a few different options in the pursuit of profit before deciding on blueberries.
“John and I really loved the cows so it wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” Mrs McIntyre said. “But we put our heads together - head down backside up - and started planting blueberries.”
Not all the crop goes offshore. Some finds its way into their ice cream.
Based in Waharoa, near Matamata, Kōwhai Creamery ice cream is made using fresh jersey milk bought from a farm down the road.
“Basically, we had the fruit and we had the bountiful Waikato with all its dairy farms, and we decided to combine them and make our own ice cream,” Mrs McIntyre said.
That local food story really resonating with customers.
“They come along and they can’t believe that I’ve made it and that the milk has come from a jersey cow down the road and the blueberries are from an orchard up the
“They get a real kick out of that, so it is very special."
Kōwhai Creamery is just one example of how producers are looking outside their main business for ways to make their operations more profitable and resilient, according to ANZ’s managing director for Commercial & Agri Mark Hiddleston.
“What Jan and John have done with Kōwhai Creamery is outstanding,” he said.
“To start out in share milking and see an opportunity in blueberries and then to leverage that further into creating your own ice cream really shows the Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit.”
The McIntyres said there was a certain amount of risk involved making a business change like this and it involved a lot of hard work.
Whether it’s looking at other forms of milking, diversifying to milking sheep or goats, or moving into something entirely different, Hiddleston said the message is the same.
“You can’t just stick to your knitting all the time,” he said. “You really need to think about how to create value, create wealth and create jobs.”
Briar McCormack is New Zealand editor at bluenotes