Support for first-time farmers

Lakeland Station & Thrive CA

When Jemma O'Donnell and Lee Greer got the opportunity to buy a block of Lee’s family property, they didn’t really think they would be able to do it. Two years later, they’re hard at work managing their 586-hectare farm, bringing in new stock, and making plans for the future.

Throughout the purchase and planning process, Jemma and Lee have had support and advice from Karen Woller at Thrive. That support helped them make the decision to buy, sort out the financial details, and manage their budget as they started their farming journey. As they continue to develop the farm and work towards profitability, Karen is there to give them advice and keep their business on track.

City to country  

Jemma and Lee were working in Auckland when they were offered the opportunity to purchase the farm. The land, now called Lakeland Station, is in Northland near Dargaville and the Kai Iwi Lakes. It’s a beautiful part of the country, but moving away from job security, friends, and family in the city wasn’t an easy decision.

Lee worked with Karen through his Auckland business, so he knew who to approach about exploring the possibility of buying the farm. Karen and the Thrive team helped Lee and Jemma put together a budget and forecast to present to the bank with their mortgage application. She even attended some meetings with the mortgage manager to help them make their case.

The accounting advice was valuable, and Lee explains that Karen’s support helped them realise that they could actually achieve their goal.

“When we first explored the idea of buying the farm, we didn’t think it would happen, but she helped us with the numbers and helped us understand we could do it. We knew it would be a few years of hard work, but it could happen.”

First-time farmers

Although Lee had grown up on a farm, Lee and Jemma were essentially first-timers when they purchased the Lakeland Station property. The farm was very run down after years of neglect by leaseholders, so a lot of their initial effort was focused on returning the land to a workable state.

Karen and Thrive are not rural farming experts, so they helped Lee and Jemma get a farming consultant on board to help with the details. The consultant helped them set policies around purchasing and selling stock, which Karen feeds into her bimonthly budgets to make sure they’re manageable.

The farm is not yet turning a profit due to extensive repairs to farm infrastructure being required, but Lee and Jemma are proud of their progress. A 100-hectare block of land has been developed for Intensive Bull Systems, which will start returning a profit in the next couple of years.

Monthly Skype meetings, email contact, and regular progress reports help keep Lee and Jemma on track, so they know they’re not overcapitalising as they work towards their goals.

“We haven’t become totally profitable just yet, we’re just in our second year farming. Working with karen and the Thrive team is really easy, every couple of months she prepares a progress report, we have an online meeting, and she’s always available by email. We’ve been really happy, not just with getting everything up and running, but with her continued support.”


Future goals

Short term, Lee and Jemma are focusing on paying down the mortgage, bringing staff on board to take the pressure off Lee, and increasing their profits. Karen is helping them balance their living costs, business costs, and loan repayments so they’re not biting off more than they can chew.

Later, they plan to develop more of the farm into intensive bull systems, and eventually they want to turn some of the marginal land over to forestry and native bush.

As they work towards these goals, Karen and Thrive will continue to be involved, providing regular reports as well as advice and support. As Lee explains, this support helps give them the confidence to keep going, even when things are tough.

“It’s given us a lot more confidence having Karen, confidence that keeps growing every year as we improve the farm and get more animals on. It’s a massive confidence boost.”

 Benefits to the Lakeland team:

  • Assistance with the initial forecasting and budgeting
  • 100 hectares of intensive bull systems developed so far
  • Regular finance reports to help stay on track
  • Confidence that we will be able to grow and expand the business
  • Advice and support as needed

Thrive CA Services used by Lakeland Station:

Want help to grow your business and achieve your dreams?  Talk to us about how Thrive CA can help you and your business.