Hamish and Margaret Macbeth wanted a way to make a living in their favourite part of the world, the West Coast – so they’ve developed a unique crop that allows them to mix work and lifestyle together.
‘TV NZ Country Calendar’ visits their Karamea property where they grow organic Australian tea tree, and sell the oil from the leaves, which is in demand for its health-giving qualities. Their 3.2 hectares of land is on a picturesque strip of land nestled between Kahurangi National Park and the Tasman Sea.
“We didn’t want to have nine-to-five jobs in the city,” says Hamish. “We wanted an active, healthy and varied lifestyle.”
Hamish and Margaret found the northern West Coast’s subtropical climate, mild temperatures and high rainfall ideal for growing tea tree. They harvest the plants once a month by cutting them at waist height. They extract the tea tree oil from the leaves by steam, using a wood-fired boiler.
They bottle the organic oil and sell it as ‘True Blue’ tea tree oil at various health stores, and it’s also used in a number of home-made products created by Margaret. While most of the oil is currently sold in New Zealand, they have started exporting small amounts to the United States.
Margaret has also been researching the potential for tea tree oil as a natural cure for mastitis in organic dairy cows.
Hamish and Margaret originally moved from Christchurch to the West Coast in the 1980s so they could raise their four children in a more natural environment. Their current property is one of only three certified organic farms on the West Coast.
They also run organic beef cattle, sheep and chickens, and have their own beehive that provides them with pure native bush honey, plus they’ve recently established an organic feijoa orchard.
“We like to know where our food comes from and we’re also conscious of food miles, so being able to supply ourselves and others with locally raised organic food is important to us,” Hamish says.