Fresh Field Farm, Wairarapa

From as early as he can remember, Foppe (rhymes with “poppa”) wanted to spend his days on the land, working with animals – and ultimately making a living from his own small piece of land. But, growing up in Leeuwarden city, Holland meant land ownership was a near-impossible dream.

That changed when Foppe visited New Zealand as a teenager in 1980. “I made up my mind then, that I would move here”. Six years later, Foppe and wife Lammie immigrated to New Zealand. Soon after, they bought 4 hectares, west of Masterton. It is those same 4 hectares that are now home to De Vries’ 4500 free range Brown Shaver hens.

After many years of managing free range egg operations for other people, Foppe finally realised his dream in 2011 – when the couple decided to develop their parcel of land into a free range egg farm.

Fresh Field Farm

The De Vries’ farm sits within view of the Tararua Ranges, near the Waingawa River. “We are out of the way, at the end of the road. It’s a beautiful property, with well-drained silt soils – great for growing grass.

“We are surrounded by mature shelterbelts and have willows, conifers and lucerne trees in our paddocks. The hens especially love the willows and lucerne, because they drop their leaves and add variation to their diet.

“Our two flocks have access to five paddocks each. We graze on a rotation and the hens love it when I open up a new paddock for them – all that fresh grass to eat.”

Beautifully simple

De Vries’ operation is beautifully simple. The pasture is a main part of the hens’ diet, supported by a composite feed to provide the required balance of minerals and nutrients. The hens also have ad lib access to grit and calcium to keep their shells strong.

Fresh water comes from a well, directly beneath the farm. And the barns are naturally ventilated. Foppe believes a good flow of fresh air through the barn is critical to good hen health.

“Our birds are healthy, curious animals. They love their time out in the paddock. The only treats they get are the “pick your own” sort, out amongst the grass.

“That said, I do spread a little feed around when I walk through the shed – a lolly scramble – so they are happy to have me about.”

The appeal of co-op model

For De Vries, the Craft Farmers’ Co-op is a perfect fit. “It’s a great concept. I work for myself and have full control over how I run the hens.

“My job description is very simple. It’s to keep my hens happy. And my ‘key performance indictor’ is equally simple. If I’m doing my job right, the girls produce beautiful eggs – and they do.”

Check out our favourite egg recipe here »