EQUITY PARTNERS IN LONGROW PASTORAL
In 1994 after a successful sharemilking career in the Waikato, which included winning the Waikato Sharemilker of the Year title and the Skellerup Young Farm of the Year title, the Barry family decided to shift to the Central Hawkes Bay to become equity managers for Longrow Pastoral Ltd. The Longrow farm was purchased and presented a dairy conversion property of 600 hectares. To get started, two 44-aside herringbone dairies were built and 1100 cows milked. This was the largest farm in Hawke’s Bay at the time and there was huge growth potential in the district. Peter and Andrea focussed on developing their experience and knowledge with their equity partners.
$ UP AND PAYOUT DOWN SO EXPANDED LONGROW
In 1996 the decision was taken to further expand the Longrow equity partnership. Longrow purchased parts of three neighbouring farms and built a third 44 aside herringbone dairy expanding to 2000 cows.
SOLD IN NORTHLAND
While sharemilking in the Waikato Peter and Andrea had also purchased a farm in Northland, on which they employed a sharemilker. This investment had grown considerably and with the decision now made to grow their business and establish their home in the Hawkes Bay, they decided to sell this farm in order to further invest locally.
PURCHASED HEDLEY AND MOVED INTO OUR OWN HOME.
In 1996, as well as expanding Longrow, the Hedley farm was purchased by Peter and Andrea. This meant they moved into their own home on the Hedley farm, employed a manager to milk the 600 cows, and remained managing the operations at Longrow. Longrow also leased a 560ha dry stock block for wintering cows and growing yearling heifers which was overseen by Peter.
Over the next year, a 22-aside dairy was built and 85 hectares was split away from Hedley creating Ellingham and an ideal 240-cow, one man unit. This lowered Hedley to a 400 cow unit.
1997 produced a 100 year drought. With plenty of forewarning about the potential for an unusual weather pattern over that summer there was extensive planning completed which paid dividends. Some cows were sold early and others were milked in the Manawatu to get through the long, difficult dry.
In May 1998, Ashton was purchased by Peter and Andrea. At the time this was a 345ha, irrigated farm in its 2nd year of milking cows. This property was farmed by the basics; more fertiliser and more cows = 30% more production.
During this year Peter moved out of the day-to-day work at Longrow and into an overseer's role of all 5 dairies, plus 2 drystock/cropping lease blocks.
A further 114ha block neighbouring Ashton was purchased in 1999. This allowed a change in irrigation from high pressure guns to pivot irrigators, which are still in use today. Ashton increased cow numbers to 1500 and was becoming increasingly difficult to manage with the complexity of the irrigation, scale and development pressures.
In October 1999 Peter broke his neck in an on-farm accident. While he made a full recovery, this time out was used productively to review and rethink the business needs, limitations and opportunities.
As a result of this review Peter ceased paid employment at Longrow and increased his focus into his and Andrea's own properties.
TOOK IN EQUITY PARTNERS IN EPIC AGRICULTURE
In June 2000, Dean and Kristen Nikora were offered a 5% share in Epic Agriculture (at the time just Ashton farm) in order to resolve the management issues on this property and allow Peter more time to enjoy kids and do other things.
EXPANDED HEDLEY TO 700 COWS AND ELLINGHAM TO 330.
During the 1999/2000 year, Barry Farms was also expanded and milked just on 1000 cows across both the Hedley and Ellingham units.
FORCED INTO CREATING STRUCTURE AND BUDGETS.
Having equity partners involved in the Ashton farm supported the need for a proper functioning Board, with an independent director to be established. The decision was made to move to a structure involving a Board of Directors and this decision proved useful in supporting Peter and Andrea's focus,direction and goals. For the first time a documented vision and strategic plan was put in place.
PURCHASE SPRINGFIELD, TASMA
Rapid expansion was needed to beat the apparent rising land prices. Springfield, at the time milking 600 cows, was purchased and taken over in November 2000 along with the neighbouring property known as Tasma. The Tasma property was converted for the 2001 season, lifting Springfield's milking area to support peak milking of 1100 cows.
The Beginning of BEL Group
PURCHASE LONGROW FROM PARTNERS
In 2000, the Equity Partnership formed to purchase Longrow ended, and a sale process for the farm was undertaken. Peter and Andrea eventually decided to purchase this property themselves, buying out all the other shareholders by leveraging off their existing shares in the property.
This became the 'L' of BEL Group.
APPOINTED CEO, TIME TO CONSOLIDATE.
After the purchase of Longrow, the decision was made to combine the three different entities, that Peter and Andrea had created, into one operating unit. Combining all the farms created an entity milking 6500 cows with around 40 staff. It also provided the opportunity to employ Dean Nikora as overall manager in a CEO-type role. All staff were replaced enabling a new culture to be born. New systems, policies and structure emerged from this.
Barry Farms became the 'B' and Epic the 'E' of BEL - so along with Longrow 'BEL' Group had been formed.
FINAL EXPANSION AND REDEVELOPMENT OF ASHTON
In 2002 Epic Agriculture purchased another 153ha to bring Ashton’s total milking area to 600ha - peak milking up to 2000 cows. A new bore was installed and the irrigated area was extended to 470ha during 2003.
Another opportunity was identified and a 50/50 sharemilking business 'Bissco' was formed, with partners John & Sally Biss. Bissco milked 1000 cows on a property neighbouring Ellingham. This was the first opportunity to help existing staff progress through to a large 50/50 business. This was a very exciting and proud moment for Peter and Andrea, having helped staff achieve their goal. A mutually beneficial project, Bissco ran its course and was wound up at the end of the sharemilking contract as planned.
DEVELOPMENT OF DAIRY SUPPORT
Between 2001-2003, Peter and Andrea also purchased Wainui, a 120ha block on Ashcott Road, about 5 km from Ashton and Turners (an 80ha block opposite Ashton on Ashcott Road). Both these properties had potential for irrigation and a pivot was put on Turners while on Wainui small amounts of spray irrigation were supported via a large towable gun.
These properties are now used for dairy support (maize growing, silage harvesting and winter cow grazing).
RE-PURCHASED EQUITY PARTNER’S SHARES TO ENABLE THEM TO PURCHASE THEIR OWN FARM.
In 2003, Peter and Andrea re-purchased the Nikora's shares in Epic Agriculture to enable them to move into a property of their own.
Epic Agriculture was now fully owned by the Barry's and incorporated Springfield, Ashton, Wainui and Turners.
With dairy farm land prices now too high to meet the Barry's requirements for a productive return, diversification options were looked into.
They started growing potatoes, predominantly on leased land, with the objective of fulfilling a McCain's contract. Peter found this business enjoyable and a new challenge. Over the ensuing years Peter put more and more energy into the potato business and became a very competent grower.
Ultimately this potato business grew into Ashcott Potatoes; a joint venture with local farmers Donald and Karen Fraser. Unfortunately the risk of disease and insect infection in 2008, alongside the inability of business partners to withstand this risk, resulted in the potato business ending.
Peter also purchased a share in a property in Georgia, USA. This property was converted to a 1000 cow pastoral dairy farm in 2008. This property provided Peter with an international challenge and interest which he enjoyed with a real passion.
LOOKING AFTER THE CORE BUSINESS
With Peter's interest in diversification, the core dairy farming business was suffering. Peter and Andrea decided to address this by appointing Avance Ltd as contract managers of their New Zealand dairy farming business. Principal consultant, Justine Kidd, had been a friend of Peter and Andrea's since they first moved to Hawke's Bay in 1994, when she was the local Dairy Board consulting officer. Justine and Avance's other principal consultant, Campbell Chard, started working with BEL Group in July 2008. Their brief was to 'get the business performing'. A new strategic and performance plan was written and the goal of producing two million kgMS was set.
FEBRUARY 2009 - TRAGEDY STRIKES
In February 2009, while enjoying one of his favourite sports, stock car racing, Peter suffered a serious head trauma which resulted in a fatal bleed on the brain.
2009 represented a year of hard graft and commitment from everyone involved in BEL Group. The community came together in support of the Barry family in the most wonderful of ways and together everyone found their way through this tragic event. Peter's story provides BEL Group with a real anchor and the lessons learnt from his entrepreneurial approach still form the foundations of the way BEL Group operates today.
In May 2009 BEL Group produced over 2 million kilograms of milk solids for the first time. This goal had sat as a hand written note stuck to the outside of Peter's filing cabinet for many years. It was a poignant success to have moved the business to this level in the first year of working with Peter's canvas - 2,150,000 kg Milksolids was clocked for the year.
MAY 2010 PURCHASED COOK ESTATE, NOW KNOWN AS ‘PETERDALE’
A 320ha property in Ashley Clinton, with neighbouring boundaries to both Hedley and Ellingham, was purchased as a dairy support property in May 2010. Significant development projects were completed including access, water systems and troughs, subdivision and capital fertiliser applications. This property forms the heart of the BEL Group Dairy Support business.
BEL GROUP CONTINUES
Peter set an amazing business in motion with the creation of BEL Group and with Andrea's ongoing grounded, practical leadership this business has a bright and exciting future. Andrea is fully involved in the business at both a governance and operational level.
BEL Group purchased Reigate in May 2012. This property milks 1050 cows in the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges not far from Longrow. Then in June 2013 BEL Group purchased Fairlea, a 460ha partially irrigated property on the boundary of Ashton milking 1300 cows.
In 2013 Andrea Barry established Dairy DHB with Justine, Campbell and Yvette Chard. This business purchased Turners and converted it to an intensive dairy farm milking 400 cows. In 2014 Dairy CHB also obtained a 600 cow 50:50 sharemilking contract on a newly converted property owned by Andrew and Sandra Thompson. This property neighbours Longrow. In 2016 Andrea and Justine purchased the Dairy CHB shares from Campbell and Yvette Chard at the same time the Chards purchased the sharemilked cows leaving Andrea and Justine as the owners of Turners Dairy Farm and the Chards owning the sharemilking position at Thomsons.
A reviewed strategic plan has been established and BEL Group continues to grow towards its new goals. Justine Kidd was appointed CEO in September 2014 and this marked BEL Group assuming full ownership of its Leadership and Management. 2016 saw Justine move onto her own endeavours and Toni Goodlass was appointed CEO. In 2017 BEL Group now has a Managing Director with Advisory Board Member Greg Mills ably filling this role.
The revised strategic plan focuses BEL Group’s energy towards leading a strong business that is able to invest in OUR community. We are committed to simple, profitable farming systems that enable us to invest in our people and their skills, careers and families while also supporting the business and local community of Central Hawkes Bay.
An Advisory Board has been established to support BEL Group's strategy of becoming a stand-alone entity that supports the Barry family's goals and aspirations without demanding their involvement. The Board has been in place since 2010. It's first focus was establishing the business systems and leadership strategies to enable BEL Group to be a soundly structured and well-managed stand-alone entity.
Now the Advisory Board’s work is focused on ensuring BEL Group is well placed and ready to achieve its new strategic goals.