Living off the land – it used to be my land
by NICK ROSEN on SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 - 4 Comments in self-sufficiency

Crafar family in better times - no Bling in sight

ALL OVER THE WESTERN WORLD hard working families forced out of business by the banking crisis and the subsequent Great Recession are finding themselves without welfare entitlement, having to live by their wits off the grid.

One of the most successful farming families in New Zealand, worth a quarter of a billion just three years ago, is the latest example to come our way.

The Crafar family, which once ran the largest family farming empire in the country, is now hunting possums and scrounging for fallen fruit to survive.

Head of the family Allan Crafar (pictured center with sons) says he and his wife Beth are “living off the land” after having trouble getting welfare benefits since the collapse of his 16 farms under $240 million of debt in 2009.

Mr Crafar said he and his wife had also grown vegetables and were given food. “Anything that is going to waste and being fed to cows in the district gets given to us.

“I’m right off the grid, basically. It’s hard to believe it can happen in New Zealand society but it has happened to us.

“We try to grow a bit of stuff if we can. We’ve eaten a few old rams. They taste all right if you cook them slow.

“If you sneak up on them on a good day, you’ll get him tender. If you shoot him in the back of the head when he’s not looking, he doesn’t know he’s a ram any more.

“I’m running out of rams – look out who else I might want to eat.”

Mr Crafar has now been moved off his land as receiver KordaMentha waits on a decision by the NZ Overseas Investment Office on a bid by a Chinese company for the farms. KordaMentha has also spoken to merchant banker Sir Michael Fay about a New Zealand-based bid of $105 million for nine of the farms.

Mr Crafar said possums and rabbits had also gone in the cookpot, along with “charity” from those in the area.

“We’ve always been pretty tight with money, so it’s not new.”

He said possums were potential money earners as well as food. “The fur is worth a bit.”

“I certainly haven’t had any bloody social welfare. Three trips to town – it costs $100 to go to town and back – and we got nowhere.”

Mr Crafar said the couple were considering leaving the South Waikato area but did not know what else to do.

“It’s a terrible situation for one of the most productive families in New Zealand. But that’s the way productive people in New Zealand are treated nowadays – like lepers. You do the most unexpected thing at the most unexpected time and that seems to work.”

He said the fees charged by the receiver – about $5 million in two years – were higher than he believed they should be. “They’ll be eating lamb,” he said.

His brother Frank Crafar said the family had become “refugees in our own country”.

He said he had turned to foodbanks, help from the Lions Club and church groups.

Food was supplemented by pigs, possums and rabbits, with apples, quinces and walnuts.

 

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4 comments

1 Mike { 09.13.11 at 1:47 pm }

there is no charity or excess for them to receive because being such large farmers, they supplied a large portion of the excess that would otherwise be available. unless, of course, they were farming and selling all their product as export. if that were the case they merely created the scarcity problem that enveloped them in the end. it’s sad to see, but as this happens we need to start paying attention to the underlying cause and effect of our own energies. how could this have been prevented or solved to be more sustainable?

2 je2f { 09.14.11 at 7:34 am }

small scale farming is the answer. no one family should be in charge of 16 farms, nor be playing around with $200,000,000+ in debt. That sounds like an entire country not just one farming family.

3 Nick Rosen { 09.16.11 at 6:07 am }

I agree with both the comments above but, if they have been paying their taxes, its telling they they have to live on nothing while others can hoover up Benefits.

4 Michael { 09.18.11 at 2:55 am }

Wow. I came here to look for info on off grid living (a subject I am very interested in) and I get presented with an article on the Crafars. Please choose your causes and role models more carefully. This guy came unstuck when he borrowed a huge amount of money presumably on the expectation of tax free capital gains in farm prices. For reasons which are plenty evident if you read his own words and watch the many news articles about him, he got in too deep and it all went to custard. Allan Crafar and co are hardly people your average off grider could relate to. The ethos of living off grid is to have little or no debt, live within one’s means, in an ecologically sound fashion and not be greedy. Say, how many offgriders can go and borrow over $200 million dollars playing the property game? Good riddance he can’t get the benefit. According to one of his claims in a TV clip he only made a few 1,000$ income. I mean… seriously?

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