Nuffield’s latest man of Steele

Nuffield scholar Dan Steele believes New Zealand’s future lies in creating a niche positioning and targeting high-value markets.

Dan Steele

The sheep and beef sector’s sole representative in the 2014 Nuffield scholarship lineup, Ruapehu farmer and conservationist Dan Steele, has a clear vision for where New Zealand should operate in the international market.

“New Zealand is a niche producer – a country with smart, educated people and beautiful, natural resources. I see our future in targeting high-value markets. Hill country farming is done well across the North and South Islands. We have good, natural, pasture-based systems. Compared to the production systems of the rest of the world, we are streets ahead.”

Those views will form the basis of the 41-year-old’s Nuffield study project.

Dan and wife Sandy farm 1460ha Blue Duck Station at Whakahoro. The property is bordered by the Whanganui and Retaruke rivers. Half of the station is farmed – running 2500 ewes and 500 cattle – while the other half is being left to regenerate. The operation incorporates Blue Duck Lodge, built in 2005 and the hub of Steeles’ eco-tourism business. The lodge attracts about 8000 mostly international visitors annually – individuals who seek out the relatively remote location to hunt, horse trek, mountain bike, kayak, tramp and recharge.

“I consider our own business to be like a mini New Zealand. For instance, we sell high-end manuka honey to people happy to pay up to $120 per kilogram. It’s about growing the model and joining up with people doing their own good things, such as meat processors producing high value packaging and telling the story behind where products come from.”

Blue Duck Station has three Ballance farm environment awards to its name, as well as a Department of Conservation (DOC) conservation award and Dan is heavily involved in local tourism and conservation activities.

This year’s Nuffield Scholarships were announced at a Wellington function last week by Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.

Steele is one of five Nuffield Scholars appointed this year. The others are: West Coast dairy farmer Bede O’Connor; Woodville dairy farmer Ben Allomes; Rotorua-based DairyNZ regional leader Sharon Morrell; and Fonterra employee Satwant Singh from Morrinsville.

They join more than 145 others who have been awarded Nuffield Scholarships in the past 60 years, which has been a substantial investment in New Zealand agriculture’ past, current and future leaders, according to Nuffield New Zealand chairman Stuart Julian Raine,

Like other Nuffield Scholars, Steele will be travelling internationally for at least four months in his Scholarship year (not necessarily consecutively), and will participate in a Contemporary Scholars conference with 60 Nuffield Scholars from around the world and attend a six-week Global Focus Programme with an organised itinerary through several countries with other Scholars. He also has his own individual study programme with a research report due at the end of his travels.

Sourced from B+LNZ – a national sponsor of the Nuffield Scholarship – and Nuffield New Zealand.

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