Mark and Annie Ferguson | Family agribusiness has strategic plan to create secure future

Mark and Annie Ferguson | Family agribusiness has strategic plan to create secure future

A farm forestry block is a vital part of a fifth-generation farming business. Mark Ferguson’s father, Ian began to plant some of the 100ha pine forest in the 1970s and his foresight in doing so is reaping economic benefits for two generations of Fergusons.

“The rotational forest has been a good entity for the farm through tougher times and has also assisted with succession planning,” says Mark.

What the Fergusons don’t mill themselves they contract out for clear felling. The milled timber is contract treated at Tumu Timbers in Hastings.

Mark and his wife Annie buy trees to mill from his parents’ family trust.

Mark explains, “We supply timber to the civil construction sector in Hawke’s Bay. We take pride in seeing its use in local buildings such as the Hastings Court House, the Crown Hotel in Ahuriri, the Farmer’s Building in Hastings, and the Napier Museum.”

In 2002, Mark returned to the farm after several different jobs including working as a tour bus driver in Europe. Around this time Mark’s parents decided to buy a Mahoe Supermill to mill timber to build their new house.

In 2006, Mark met UK born lass Annie while she was on a working holiday and they got married in 2010.

Mark and Annie bought the 440ha sheep and beef farm at Kahuranaki, near Havelock North, from Mark’s parents in 2015.

“To assist with fast-tracking development and increase on-farm production, we do all our shearing, fencing and cropping. Dad used to shear up until 15 years ago, and he still works four to five days a week on the farm,” says Mark.

Mark had been shearing for 20 years on the farm but decided to try his hand at competitions two years ago after meeting former world champion Cam Ferguson. He was thrilled to win the junior Golden Shears competition and the supreme quality award in 2017, and took the intermediate title at the Hawke’s Bay A&P Show this year.

Annie was formerly a journalist but retrained as an early childhood educator prior to their two daughters being born. She is currently furthering her studies and helps with the strategic planning side of the business, thanks to development courses run through the Agri Women’s Development Trust (AWDT).

It was Annie who encouraged Mark to try using a drone on their farm to see what it could achieve. “We’re using it for mustering and measuring fence lines, and I’m amazed at how much time it’s saving me. I was sceptical at first, but now I can see its many benefits.

“In time we’ll attach more to its platform for pasture and crop measuring.”

Hamish Pringle at Moore Markhams Hawkes Bay is a brilliant sounding board and valuable member of our team, says Mark. “We enjoy and value his knowledge and his belief in us. We can call him anytime – he’s only a phone call away.”

Hamish has helped the Fergusons transition to Cash Manager accounting software and Farmax for their stock budget. “Both are useful planning and budgeting tools,” says Mark. Hamish has also assisted the Fergusons with financial planning.

“Strategic planning is always heavily influenced by the figures. For example, when we wanted to buy a new tractor for milling, fencing, cropping and fertiliser, after talking to Hamish, our decision to proceed became clear. He gave me confidence that it was justified.

“What you need for a successful business are skilled people to fill in the gaps of expertise that you don’t have. Hamish does that.”