Topic: Waterford farm

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At more than 80 years of age, long-time local Eric Early has decided to leave his 'Waterford' farm. But the century-old tradition of the Early family running the farm will not be broken.

WATERFORD CHANGES HANDS  AFTER 100 YEARS.

At more than 80 years of age, long-time local Eric Early has decided to leave his 'Waterford' farm. But the century-old tradition of the Early family running the farm will not be broken. Mr Early has sold the farm to his daughter Redla who will manage it with her husband and their four children.

Mr Early says "I've done my day's work" and is "feeling pretty philosophical" about leaving the farm he has lived on virtually all his life. The sheep, cattle and cropping farm covers more than 700 acres with an additional 200 acres of riparian rights to the Selwyn River.

Mr Early's family have owned and managed land in the area for four generations and his son Nelson owns a sheep and cropping farm over the river.
'Waterford', its' large homestead and the Early family are features of the local community. Mr Early remembers Christmas and Boxing Days when Waterford was considered "the centre of the universe".

Mr Early had an auction of some of Waterford's relics on Friday. Vintage machinery, trucks, and even a model bridge were for sale. The event was successful with collectors coming from all over the country.

Early has always been an active participant in the community. At 12 years old he was driving his father's truck to Greendale School with a load of firewood to heat up the classrooms. He is now a patron of the school and always attends their end-of-year concert. "It's good for the old soul. I like to see the district well supported. We're few and far between now. When I was at Greendale there were 60 students, now there's only about 20."

From the fifties through to the seventies he tutored young men as part of the Christchurch Vocational Guidance Programme. Mr Early took the cadets into his home and trained them to be farmers. He offered them wisdom and home-cooked meals from his wife. He "took quite a lot of pleasure" in the voluntary work.

Mr Early is also well known for the "portable bridge' that he constructed to allow people in the district access over the Selwyn River. He built the 20 yard bridge himself over 50 years ago and would remove it when the river flooded.

Mr Early has five children and 12 grandchildren who live all over the world, from Singapore to London. His wife Beatrice passed away a few years ago. "We spoke about it and agreed I would die first, but it wasn't to be."

Mr Early attributes the farms success and his longevity to a passion for hard work. He says of the Early family, "We're all farming people with initiative and we're not afraid of working long hours. If I hadn't kept working I might be dead."

Mr Early plans to retire in Darfield. His daughter Greta has asked that he move into a house with at least three bedrooms in order to make room for hordes of visiting relatives. He hopes to take on a vintage car as a new project - so long as he can maintain his drivers license!

Nicola Willis

Source: Malvern Record 13/05/2003

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