Free-range chickens have proved a great fit for a young Manawatu farmer, and for his family. By Rebecca Greaves.

Scott Jimmieson has realised his dream of becoming a farmer, and he’s keeping it local with his new online shop business, Local Food NZ, connecting farms with consumers.

The online farm shop and home delivery service in the Manawatu and Wellington regions offers free-range eggs from Scott’s farm and honey and coffee from other local producers.

The Local Food NZ business started in 2019 and their direct-to-consumer model was amplified by the Covid-19 lockdowns.

They also wholesale a number of eggs to cafes and restaurants. Scott always knew he wanted to be a farmer, going to work in the dairy industry straight out of high school before travelling overseas and coming back to New Zealand to start his egg farm.

Living the dream in London and walking into the Tesco stores, he noticed all the free-range eggs. Doing research, he discovered about 45% of the United Kingdom market was free-range while in NZ, it was only about 14%. He thought it could only go one way here.

Returning to NZ, he approached his father about leasing the 32-hectare block the family owned at Halcombe, in the Manawatu, to base the business. Despite having no experience with chickens, he established Jimmieson Farms in 2015 when he took out a personal loan to fund the purchase of his first 500 chickens.

“I always wanted to be a farmer; it was the essence of who I wanted to be. Obviously, needing financial backing and big deposits to get into dairy farming just wasn’t feasible for me and I had to look at my strategic advantage. I had a bit of land my parents had I could lease off them and I had to look at something I could do intensively on a small amount of land.

“There came a time in my life I needed to commit to something and take that big leap of faith. I was always going to do it, but it was having the courage to take that first leap.”

The chickens have turned out to be a great fit for Scott personally, and for his family. Scott sank everything he had into the venture, working full-time on a dairy farm, and then selling cars, and pouring every dollar he earned into the chicken enterprise, which he ran on the side.

“There was only one way for me, it was committing 110%. I don’t even think I had a personal account, I just put all the money straight into the business.”

A stickler for numbers and Excel spreadsheets, he knew the numbers worked, he just needed to figure out a way to scale the business and buy more chickens.

Initially, Scott sold his eggs wholesale to another company, but he always knew his goal was to sell his own eggs. Selling cars isn’t so different to selling eggs, he reckons, and he soon realised people enjoy buying products from people they know.

“I thought selling cars would be a great option to earn a good income and teach me a good skill of selling. That was the first step of becoming a bit more professional. Selling cars teaches you about people’s buying habits and how to act in front of people.”

In 2019 the big turning point came when he could prove the numbers to the bank and invested in building a 5000-chicken shed. He then employed staff, including his father, to run the farm while he was still at work selling cars. In 2020 during the first Covid lockdown a new market of home delivery presented itself, flipping the business overnight, and suddenly he was receiving 100 orders a day. This provided a platform for the launch of Local Food NZ. Scott has finally given up selling cars. He now farms 35,000 free-range laying hens, recently invested in a second egg farm, and has big plans to add more products to the Local Food stable.

“The most surreal moment was leaving a job and going completely self-employed in something I created, essentially from nothing.”