Wilden View is a finalist in the Southland and Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The regional winners will be announced at ceremonies in Invercargill and Dunedin next Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. An impressive transformation has taken place at two West Otago farms, resulting in a dramatic increase in stock numbers while preserving the area’s iconic tussock.

James Edgar operates two farms under the business name of Wilden View, guided by a vision of bringing intensive farming to the hills. He has owned Chestermain since 2014, and purchased a second property called Glenoykel in 2021, after leasing it for five years — bringing the total effective farmed area to 990ha.

The expansion, along with careful planning, has seen stock numbers increase from 3000 to 12,000 in the space of nine years.

Mr Edgar and his stock manager, Ethan Wilson, are also gradually diversifying the original sheep farms so they now include cattle, deer and trees.

Clear financial priorities have resulted in significant investment at Chestermain over the past nine years, including new fencing, satellite sheep yards and reticulated water being installed in every paddock.

Pasture renewal was a priority, achieved through soil management and tailoring stock to suit the land. The property now boasts excellent stock and grass, against a backdrop of native tussock, which has been carefully integrated into the farm’s operation.

Native tree plantings and careful winter grazing methods further enhanced the area.

Sheep contributed to 75% of the business’s income, with the balance coming from beef, although Mr Edgar was branching into forestry and deer.

Mr Edgar brings a ‘‘quarterback philosophy’’ to his farming — sourcing talented people and letting them find their own path as they develop and grow.