Eight Mile Farms is no ordinary farm. The King Country based property encompasses four sheep and beef farms, a dairy farm and forestry blocks.

With 2,500-hectares, 800 cows, 6,500 ewes, 1,500 bulls and 700 prime cattle, managing the property is a mammoth task. Owners – Olivia and Matt Buckley – employ nine fulltime staff and additional seasonal workers as contract milkers, stock managers, shepherds and a maintenance team.

“We really enjoy growing and developing people within our business. We like to see the potential in people and give them the opportunity to grow,” says Eight Mile Farms owner and director, Olivia Buckley.

With several staff who have worked on the farm for 22 years, it’s clear that the husband-and-wife team have created a desirable working environment.

The farm’s origins were as a sheep and beef farm, but the couple converted part of the farm to dairy in 2008 to help balance cashflow throughout the year.

The third-generation, family-owned farm is now busy eleven months of the year producing milk, lamb, beef and wool.

“One of the things I love about our business is that we can integrate the dairy with the sheep and beef. We rear all our calves off the dairy farm and take them right through until they go to the works,” says Olivia.

Olivia has been on the farm for 20 years but originally worked as a veterinarian and has also taught animal technology and farming papers at Wintec.

These days she manages Eight Mile Farm’s people and capability, recruitment, property management, health & safety, animal health, calf rearing and climate change initiatives.

Like all businesses, the farm faces financial challenges and was keen to future proof the business.

Olivia says: “As well as the current economic climate, there’s a lot of uncertainty around how farming is going to evolve in the future as well as changes in the regulatory environment.”

Eight Mile Farms has been proactive trying to overcome these challenges by future proofing the business through meeting environmental regulations and promoting business resilience. This includes initiatives such as planting 45,000 native trees and fencing 11 kilometres of riverbanks to protect the river from stock entering it.

Olivia believes that a good governance structure is crucial to the future success of Eight Mile Farms, but with little understanding of governance and how to implement it, she applied for Regional Business Partner funding.

“Governance is really important for our farming systems, especially as we begin think about succession planning and some of the challenges that we’re facing with the economic downturn.”

Olivia completed Mayfield Group’s six-month Governance Development programme earlier this year.

“The course gave me an in-depth understanding about what governance is and has given me clarification around my responsibilities as a director.

“On the course we met with people who are successful directors and heard about the challenges they face in their role. There was a great network of people on the course, and we had two sessions with a mentor which was really beneficial.

“One of the highlights for me was growing my understanding of financial analysis. Having those skills will really help with making our business more resilient.

“Soda was excellent to deal with and I’m really grateful for the opportunity that the Regional Business funding gave us,” she concludes.

Find out if your business is eligible for Regional Business Partner funding.