The daughters of a Marlborough high country farming couple have created a sustainable family business offering Merino lamb direct to consumers. Rebecca Greaves reports.

The daughters of a Marlborough high country farming couple have created a sustainable family business offering Merino lamb direct to consumers. Their story is told in the latest episode of From the Ground Up podcasts, Rebecca Greaves writes.

Merino lamb raised in the Marlborough high country and delivered direct to your door, Middlehurst Delivered is a family business with a focus on sustainability.

Middlehurst Station owners Willie and Susan Macdonald have created a diverse business at Middlehurst, including a lodge, that has allowed opportunities for all four of their children to be involved, creating a sustainable, inter-generational business.

The couple had long had a dream to offer their lamb direct to consumers, and now their daughters Lucy and Sophie have taken the idea and run with it.

The result is Middlehurst Delivered, 100% Merino lamb direct from the station to the consumer. They process the lambs and dispatch the meat to consumers around the country through their online store, and supply a select-few restaurants. Half- and whole-lamb box options are available, as well as individual cuts.

Lambs born at Middlehurst, located up the Awatere Valley, come down to the finishing farm at Cheviot in North Canterbury, which has a more temperate climate.

Brother Henry, who manages the finishing farm at Cheviot, is a vital cog in the operation and hand-picks the lambs for Middlehurst Delivered and delivers them to Harris Meats, a small abattoir just 10 kilometres down the road.

Once processed and vacuum packed, the meat is delivered back to the farm in Cheviot where they have a certified chiller. It is weighed, labelled and dispatched to customers.

Lucy oversees the day-to-day running of the business, including dispatch, which she loves. She says the idea for Middlehurst Delivered came to them during the Covid lockdown. “We thought, let’s just do it, so naively we just did it. We had a lot of time to think, and family chats, and we just had to start somewhere, so we started with the half and whole boxes of lamb.”

Having Harris Meats on board has been key. “We have a great relationship with them and it just makes the business work really well that it’s so close, it’s stress-free and the animals are happier.”

The tourist lodge at Middlehurst is another important part of the business, as any surplus cuts can be sent up there to be used in the restaurant. The chef at the lodge has also been instrumental in helping develop recipes using the lamb.

Educating consumers and showing them what can be done with lamb is equally important. “A lot of people have had an experience with lamb where they haven’t enjoyed it, or it hasn’t been cooked correctly. We have a recipes’ page and also tips and tricks we’ve learned, like the right cooking temperatures, that make the whole experience more enjoyable.”

Middlehurst Delivered recently picked up six golds at the New Zealand Outstanding Food Producers Awards, a great confidence boost to validate the quality of Middlehurst lamb.

Lucy and Sophie are constantly working to grow the business, researching and looking at what’s working, what’s not, and where they can add value. Lucy says this is a work in progress and they’re in a growth phase.

“We’ve got so much to do in our marketing space and it’s about creating that brand story that is Middlehurst Station and the lodge as well, so the customer gets the sense of how special and unique our business is.”