Riverfields Cottage is a Bed and Breakfast Farmstay Accommodation based in the Farm Lands of Ashburton, New Zealand’s Historic South Island. Offering arable accommodation within a farming community

A Longbeach Area History – Developing some of the best farming land in the world.

Iwi of the mighty Ngai Tahu Maori Tribe

Maori occupation was frequent between the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers.with temporary camps located near water. These were stopovers used by parties en route to the west coast or moving north and south. Fish and birds were caught and plants and trees used .The Ngai Tahu Tribes land claims were finally realized many years later

In 1844 early times European and Mari’s travelled along the beach so to not get lost in the swamp. The beaches are high sided cliffs and open seas.

Today Ashburton has a small Maori and Pacific Island population contributing actively in the community. Ashburton has one Mare at Hakatere (on the northern edge of the town) and Te Whare OTaWhaki in the grounds of the Ashburton College.

Pioneers and Peat Swamps

Riverfields Farm HistoryBest known pioneer John Grigg in 1871 with the help of his wealthy brother in law formed the Longbeach Estate covering an area south of the Ashburton River along the coast totaling 12960ha. As manager he drained large areas of swamp lands and developed some of the best farming land in the world.

A statue honoring him can be seen in Baring Square Ashburton Longbeach Estate homestead and buildings can be viewed at the end of Longbeach Road beside the coast.

Peat swamps made the land impassable and draining the swamps with teams of men and horses uncovered large logs of kahikatea primitive trees from small forests in the area.

In early years of Longbeach the areas of dry tussock land were used to fatten cattle. These were driven across the Arthur’s pass to the West Coast gold fields and also to Christchurch markets.

With the lack of fences and straying stock boundary riders were employed to live in huts built on the boundaries to watch for straying stock. One of theses was on the southern banks of the Ashburton River not far from Riverfields cottage.

Field tiles changed farming to Sheep and Wheat

A system of underground drains for open drains and emerging spring water from underground sources meant the need for clay pipes. In 1887 the Longbeach brick kiln was built to produce field tiles as demand grew the brickworks at Eiffelton was established the tall chimney creating the landmark named after the Eiffel tower Paris

As more land was drained cropping and sheep increased and the Longbeach Estate became a large operation.

In 1870-90s Sheep rising became profitable and sheep numbers increased substantially. Wool was exported and freezing works were opened .Farms started breeding lambs for the frozen trade

In 1867 John Grigg planted his first wheat crop and grain growing increased requiring teams of men to harvest. In 1895 Longbeach purchased 15 new binders. and employed up to 300 men and at least an equal number of horses. The area became a rich mix of coal fired engines belching mills straw and wheat sacks.

In 1874 the Rakaia River was bridged bringing an influx of new settlers. Tradesmen including brick makers, saddlers, and blacksmiths, drain diggers, small businesses and contractors settled in the area

IrrigatorThe industrious far sighted work of the early English Irish Scottish immigrants led the Canterbury Plains to become transformed into a green prosperous farming region.

Aquifers Irrigation and Intensification

In 1972 the first successful well was sunk and spray irrigation became wide spread in the area. Today new technology along with fertilizer, nitrogen, agricultural chemicals and irrigation has greatly increased the production in the area.

Today’s land use includes specialist small seeds, brassicas, maize silage legumes, dairying ,horticulture and a five star beef fattening enterprise. Grain silos and five furrowed ploughs, fodder silage, large straw balers, combine harvesters , tractors and milking sheds now replace teams of men and horses.

Riverfields Farm Calves

The Cows

Riverfield Farm hand rears calves until four months old. These calves are then on sold to cattle and sheep properties.

Dairying has grown substancially in Mid Canterbury especially in the last decade. The Canterbury region now has over 700000 cows and there are three large dairy factories located across the plains ,Clanyboye (Fontera) and Studholme (NZ Dairies) and Dunsandel (Synlait)

Dairying began on the plains in the 1850s and was localized around small towns on soils capable of producing reliable summer pastures. Banks Peninsula became the first dairying area to export butter and cheese. Refridgerated milk tankers and the introduction of the Holsteim Fresian Stud along with irrigation has intensified dairying. Canterbury has larger herd sizes and cow stocking rates per ha and milk fat solids per ha higher than other NZ regions.

Riverfields Farm Sheep

The Sheep

Riverfields Farm has lambs grazing on pasture paddocks in the late summer and autumn,throughout the winter and into the spring until October.

Canterbury’s first settlers introduced sheep to stock their large farming runs. Wool, skins, hides, tallow and potted meat were the cornerstone of Canterbury economy.Between the world wars with farm mechanisation and the use of lime and improved pasture seeds hence farming productivity increased. In the 1950 – 60s the Canterbury Lamb became the prime producer.

The introduction of water to irrigate farms in Canterbury and the move to spray irrigation has increased pasture yields. Irrigated land became valuable producing more pasture per hectare than the North Island and Southland. Over the last ten years there has been a decrease in sheep numbers with land use changing the dairy stock.

Tussock grasslands on the high-country are stocked with merino’s a fine wool sheep and stronger wool crossbred sheep. Finishing the store lambs and breeding ewe flocks happen on the irrigated lowland or higher rainfall farms. Mixed cropping and sheep farm benefit from integrating livestock into their systems. Meat Processing remains a significant processing industry in Canterbury despite the decline in sheep numbers as there has been an increase in cattle slaughter with dairying. Silver Farms and Canterbury Meat Packer are large processing plants in Canterbury.

Riverfields Farm Wheat

Wheat Fields

Cropping and sheep farms have always been a feature on the Canterbury Plains. Most Cropping farms are either irrigated or have reliable rainfall. Intensive cropping of wheat barley cereals ryegrass clover small seeds, vegetable and brassica seeds are the major portion of the farm income. Livestock of sheep especially fattening lambs works well with these arable systems. Cropping farms provide feed supplements of maize silage grain, straw and high feed value fodder crop for dairying. Many of these farms have converted to dairying because of the global prices of grain in comparison to the dairy pay out.