Nestled on the Crown Terrace overlooking the Whakatipu Basin at an elevation of more than 600 metres is Royalburn Station, a 1200-acre working farm. Originally founded in 1887 by William McKibbon to grow wheat and barley for gold miners and early settlers, passionate food advocates Nadia Lim and Carlos Bagrie took over the farm in 2019.
With a motto of ‘Grow, Feed, Connect’ Nadia and Carlos decided to diversify the farm in pursuit of finding more sustainable and circular solutions to protect the land and help the animals thrive.
Nadia Lim, Royalburn Farm
With fertile soils for growing cereals and seeds, they’ve also trialled sunflowers and other produce, with soil health improvements supported by on-farm animal-waste compost.
Royalburn is one of only a couple of farms in New Zealand an on-site abattoir and butchery, helping reduce transport costs and emissions.
It ultimately creates tastier lamb, too – Royalburn Station recently won a NZ Food Award for its fine lamb, now high on the wish list of some of NZ’s best restaurants.
Pasture-raised hens are a recent addition to the mountain farm, and they’re free to roam in wide-open spaces in between laying eggs in their high-tech mobile homes. Nitrogen-rich chicken manure is repurposed to enrich the productive soils.
Nadia and Carlos are continuing to experiment with farming operations that significantly reduce or utilise waste. They’ve found each season brings different successes and lessons learnt from their organic market garden; altitude challenges, very hot and cold climates, and spray-free growing that suits some crops better than others.
Royalburn Farm Shop in Arrowtown
Much of the farm’s produce is available for purchase locally at the Royalburn Farm Shop in Arrowtown and restaurants across Queenstown have been quick to support Royalburn for its high-quality produce and sustainable approach to feeding the masses. Chefs from Amisfield, Rata, Lil Red, The Dishrey, and Mora are just some of the supporters raving about their tender lamb and fresh produce.
Most recently, the farm launched an exciting new product to complement its food offering: Swifty beer. A classic, simple and refreshing tipple, the beer is created from the farm’s spray-free barley and is now available on tap at selected establishments in Queenstown and Wānaka.
Nadia and Carlos’ vision for the future is to adopt a more regenerative approach and offer a true paddock-to-plate experience.
“It’s motivating for us to be able to connect people to their food and how it’s grown,” says Carlos. “Royalburn Station is one of Aotearoa’s oldest farms and I think we now have an awesome opportunity, and a responsibility, to help bridge the gap between what’s on our plates and how it’s grown to ultimately build a more resilient and sustainable food system in New Zealand.”
Royalburn 'Swifty' beer
In recognition of Royalburn’s diverse farming practices and regenerative systems, Carlos has been awarded one of four Nuffield Scholarships which will see him explore various agricultural contexts, practices, strengths and challenges around the world. By learning more about zero-waste circular solutions and maximising them to reduce costs, Carlos hopes will aid Royalburn’s journey in leading the future of farming in New Zealand.
Locals and visitors can get the exclusive chance to tour the farm this summer. Royalburn will open up its doors to the public for three charity farm tours. Proceeds will go to local charities, Garden To Table, Kiwi Harvest and Basket of Blessings.
Learn more about Royalburn and its vision for regenerative farming on its website here.