Walking the talk
It’s a working farm, a walking track, and a honey pot.
Dan Shand (11499), who boarded in School House from 1992–1995, is thriving on the family farm in the Hurunui, operating three businesses together with his wife Mandy, plus bringing up a family.
“Island Hills was our family farm and it is large but was relatively unproductive, so Mandy and I decided to try to find alternative incomes, and that’s how both the walking track and the honey business started, both allowing us to farm and develop Island Hills Station.”
The willingness to diversify and their hard work has paid off. The farm is now more productive, and the walking track, run day to day with the help of Shaun Monk, is in full swing during the summer months.
“It’s a three night walk and people love it; work on pest control over more than 15 years means the bird life is incredible. It’s an amazing and scenic place, different each day – and the accommodation is a real feature. You can bring a pet dog which is not possible on many other tracks.”
Dan says meeting so many people, and their excitement when they return after completing it, is a real highlight of the business.
The honey business was created to use the large amounts of native forest on the farm, including Manuka. It has expanded to allow scale and ensure all the hives weren’t in one climate during the honey flow; there are now more than 2000 hives for honey on a number of other farms.
Like all good farmers, Dan says the weather plays a major part in what they do.
“Some years the best planning and working hard, doesn’t make a bit of difference if the weather doesn’t go your way.”
Dan says he made great friends at College, and enjoyed “an amazing art department which helped shape what I did in the future.”
College of Education studies, a Business Management degree, and time in IT in Sydney all preceded his return to Island Hills. In 2014 he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to study agriculture in 15 countries including Russia, China and Kenya.