I’m sitting in the backseat of a small car, looking out the window. Ahead of us is a small tractor on the highway. We quickly maneuver around it and keep on our way past rows of corn and fields of dairy cows to a family owned farm dotted with magnolia and pecan trees. This sounds like the usual for rural Alabama and is something I’ve experienced easily a hundred times, but today, I was a world away.
After a three-hour bus ride, I hopped in the back seat of John Vosper’s Alfa Romeo in Matamata, New Zealand, to visit Jersey Girl Organics and talk about the country’s dairy industry. When I left our little hostel to catch an 8 a.m. bus, I never expected to find a place like home.
While taking photos to accompany a story by our digital editor Hailey Grace, I got to know the Vosper family who reminded me of so many families in the Southeast. The farm is currently owned by the fifth generation of Vospers, who keep roughly 400 cows and fit the archetype of the Southern farming family. We were served fresh milk upon arrival and ate chicken sandwiches with John, his sister Mary and his children Michael and Laura, who will soon take over the farm. The Vospers walked us through every aspect of dairy farming in New Zealand, letting us in on their daily lives, including the exciting and difficult moments one experiences in the dairy industry. We got a look into the milk pasteurizing process, learned how to move cows from paddock to paddock and walked through the herds while eating apples straight from the tree – which was easily my favorite part of the interview.
I never expected this place to feel normal. I was prepared for an exotic experience with people and processes completely unlike those I experience every day back home, but was met with the warm embrace of the familiar. While our time in New Zealand is not even close to over and many incredible, unusual experiences are in store, beginning our trip with a taste of home was a welcome surprise and I look forward to many more in the days to come.