An Altamont woman attending Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, is expanding her agricultural horizons – overseas.
Mackenzie Hoffman, a senior at MSU, has traveled to the Caribbean, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and China.
“Out of all of those countries, New Zealand was my favorite,” Hoffman said.
New Zealand was one of the most recent overseas stops for Hoffman to study agriculture for two weeks. Hoffman and 17 MSU students made the New Zealand trip in December 2019.
“Tourism and export agriculture are their two main things,” Hoffman said about New Zealand.
Hoffman said New Zealand has two islands, North Island and South Island. Her group visited both islands during their agricultural study program.
“They have a lot of horticulture crop exports – cherries, kiwi and apples,” Hoffman said. “Their main market, like ours, is China.”
She visited Kiwi Produce, LTD, which specializes in golden Kiwis and is working to grow a red one.
“All of the golden Kiwi you see in Walmart are all from the same company in New Zealand,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman also was able to visit dairy operations in New Zealand.
“Their dairy system is very different than ours,” Hoffman said. “They are able to produce more.”
She said they can continuously milk cows and the milk parlor never stops running.
“The amount of time it would take us to milk 200 head, they could do 600 in New Zealand,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said a mass quantity of powdered milk is produced in New Zealand. All of the dairy from New Zealand comes from Fonterra, the sole distributor of milk products.
“They are a monopoly,” Hoffman said. “The farmers in New Zealand voted to be a monopoly.”
She said a lot of the powdered milk for baby formula in the United States comes from Fonterra. But in the U.S., Hoffman noted farmers are not allowed to have a monopoly.
Hoffman said most cattle farmers in New Zealand also raise sheep.
“They do mostly pasture grazing over there and they don't feed them much grain,” Hoffman said. “They are mostly pasture managers.”
She said New Zealand farmers are very serious about how their pastures look and how healthy their grass is, as well as crop rotation.
Hoffman found one of the most interesting and unique parts of studying in New Zealand was seeing red deer velvet processed. She said the deer's antlers are harvested when they are still soft. The deer are brought into a shed with high walls and given a shot around the antlers before they remove them so they can't feel any pain.
“Then they are perfectly free to go,” Hoffman said. “There are not many countries allowed to do that.”
“They are very practical, very humane and up to date with laws and regulations to make sure it is safe for the deer,” Hoffman said. “Then the antlers grow back every year and if they start growing too fast they will remove them twice a year.”
The harvested deer velvet is used as traditional Chinese and Korean medicine.
“That was one of my favorite aspects of the agricultural tours because it's definitely something we don't have over here,” Hoffman said.
She said New Zealand showcases its agriculture in a place called the Agrodome, where they give educational farm tours. The Agrodome featured sheep breeds from around the world.
“They do most of their herding with dogs, and they also herd by four-wheelers, trucks and horses,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman was one of four in her group of 18 who were allowed to herd sheep in New Zealand on horses.
“That was a lot of fun,” Hoffman said.
Her group was split into smaller groups for an overnight stay at a farm. The farm she stayed was a sheep farm with horses, where she was able to learn about the equine horse racing industry.
“We got to see their farm and how they run their farm,” Hoffman said. “We got to personally stay with the family.”
Hoffman said horses in New Zealand are bred with horses from the United States to increase their blood lines. The farm where she stayed had recovering race horses.
Hoffman also learned out the country's trade industry.
“I was surprised how much New Zealand, U.S. and China exported from each other,” Hoffman said. “New Zealand is very into exports and imports of what they can and can't make.”
She said their farm vehicles aren't as industrialized as U.S. vehicles because they have to import most of them.
Hoffman said New Zealanders today are more respectful of their native Maori culture. The Maori language is now considered a national language and a lot of New Zealand's towns are named after Maori. Hoffman said their group was able to explore the Maori culture by visiting their camps and learning how they settled in New Zealand.
“The Maori are known for their face tattoos,” Hoffman said. “They are thought to be the same people who lived on the Hawaiian Islands that split off.”
“The word tattoo came from their language,” Hoffman noted, adding a tattoo was a symbol of manliness for a male while females only wore a tattoo under their mouths.
Hoffman said while her study group was in New Zealand, the country passed a new environmental law requiring farmers to plant a certain amount of trees. Typographically, a majority of New Zealand is similar to most rural parts of the United States, she said.
“We were in their main capital city (Auckland) and we could walk free across the street and not have to worry about people hitting us,” Hoffman said.
“You can't go anywhere without people who want to talk agriculture with you,” Hoffman said. “On the South Island, on the same day you can drive from one side of the island to the other and be on the beach. You can go to the middle of the island and be in one of the world's largest night sky reserves and be able to see a gazillion stars or keep driving to the mountains to go skiing.”
“They are not as industrialized and developed as we are over here,” Hoffman said. “But, they are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.”
Hoffman is working on her internship this summer in West Memphis, Arkansas, at Bunge North America, a large grain company in North America.