Tracey Hancox (nee Hogg) is originally from Clinton in South Otago and attended St Hilda’s as a boarder from 1991-1995. Tracey and her husband Carey have started several successful ventures from their farm in the Catlins.
After St Hilda’s, Tracey went on to Lincoln University and completed a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Tourism. “I was making my way nicely up the countryside at this stage of my life until I met my future husband during my university holidays, as we were both working in the woolsheds for the local contractor. So once I graduated, I ended up all the way back down in the Catlins, not even half an hour away from my own family farm!”
Husband Carey had purchased a 320 acre block of land and was shearing to help finance this when Tracey met him. She started working at an accountancy firm in Balclutha but within five years they had already begun expanding their farming business, so she came home to work full time on the farm. They have now been there for 21 years and have gradually built their property size to 1800 acres thanks to neighbouring properties becoming available over this period. They mainly farm sheep and beef but also have a good spread of forestry on the property and provide dairy support grazing during the winter months.
The Catlins is increasingly being favoured as a tourist destination. Tracey says “with the purchase of the last block of land, it gave us the opportunity to diversify into Tourism which had been a dream of mine for quite some time. The house on this property needed some attention before we could offer it as accommodation to guests so that was our next project. We named it Catlins River Station House after the old railway which used to pass through this area. It is now a lovely, comfortable cottage and we have a great clientele from all over New Zealand and the world”.
Tracey’s husband’s family built a beautiful home on the top of their property back in 2002. It was supposed to be a two bedroom cottage but the project grew and it ended up being a fabulous four bedroom home with gorgeous views of the Catlins Coastline. Five years ago they were given the opportunity to open this home up for more luxury style accommodation, so Tiromoana – Catlins Ocean View Accommodation was created. This venture worked in nicely with a neighbouring wedding venue as they often have bridal parties staying and have even had some wedding ceremonies up there as well. “We did find this quite a stressful market to cater for so are steering away from this and focussing more on the domestic and international markets which frequent the Catlins every year”.
Tracey found that guests often enquired about purchasing home grown meat from the farm, so their next venture was to open their own farm butchery which they have done by converting a refrigerated container into a large chiller and processing room. Catlins Coast Premium Meats has been operating for three months now. “We see ourselves as being more of a smaller boutique operation catering for our guests and a domestic market. We have learnt a huge amount in a small space of time and will no doubt keep learning as we discover who our market is and how we reach them. Tools have changed since the good old days of St Hilda’s and Lincoln with the internet and social media being a strong form of marketing these days. It is a bit of a challenge keeping up with technology but luckily our three boys George (13), Will (11) and Sam (9) seem to be more savvy in this area and can help us out – well, George anyway at this stage”.
The butchery, while being a new enterprise for the couple, complements their accommodation and farming operations, as people are changing they way they perceive food and provenance. “We need to work on our points of difference, be open in our operation and allow people to come and take a look at our property. What I have noticed is that service is everything. To take the time to talk to people when we deliver has been important”, says Tracey. She is pretty sure there will be other ideas for new ventures down the track, but with the farm, accommodation business and the butchery, plus three boys, it is busy enough! You can find out more about their business here.