More than a century on-farm at Benmore

The Peters family have farmed at Benmore in Tataramoa, Hawke’s Bay, since 1914.

In the undulating, lower hill country of Tataramoa, nestled between Dannevirke and the striking Ruahine ranges, lies Benmore farm.

James and Sarah Peters bought the land in 1914 and named it after the mountain Ben More, near James’ birthplace in the highlands of Scotland.

The 1,459 acres were covered in dense bush of rimu, totara, maire and rata. The land had been milled for timber and many of the tracks used to haul logs are still visible. One of James’ first tasks was to clear the leftover logs and branches and establish pastures in the ash covered soil. Fires that ignited in the debris of fallen trees were a constant and dangerous threat for decades.

While raising a young family, the couple built a house and woolshed that continue to be used today.

The early years were spent stumping, ploughing, cultivating fodder crops such as chou moellier and swedes and establishing pasture.

Sarah was a formidable force on the farm. While heavily pregnant, she cleared stumps with a crosscut saw and in later years, cooked meals for teams of shearers on a scorching wood stove.

James steered Benmore through many challenges including snowstorms, fires, earthquakes and economic depression, turning it into a productive sheep and beef farm. In the 1930s, a dairy herd was added.

In keeping with its Scottish name, Benmore was often home to traditional highland dances (ceilidh) and reverberated to the sound of bagpipes.

In 1955, the farm was handed over to the three Peters sons – Donald, Robert and George. Since then, sections of the original farm have been sold and adjoining land purchased.

These days, the farm successfully breeds Romney sheep, as well as running cattle and a dairy herd. Benmore farm is now owned by James and Sarah’s grandson, Murray, and farmed by their greatgranddaughter, Jane and her husband.