Community Insider Newsroom

A Daughter’s Promise: Savaii Farmer Continues Rea Farms Legacy

Five years ago, Ruth Aickin-Bell and her husband Kelvin relocated to Samoa trading the bustling metropolis of Gold Coast, Australia, for the quiet and simple life in the idyllic South Coast of Savaii.

Making good on a promise she made to her late father, Tuipapalii Magele Edwin Rea, Ruth returned to take up a caretaker role of the family’s large land located inland of Faala, Palauli; transforming 150 acres of wild bush into a sustainable, organic cattle farm with lots of potential.

“I left Samoa when I was 12 or 13 years old and have lived all over the world working as a nurse” said Ruth. “It wasn’t until my father fell ill and he started to talk about our family land in Savaii with a sense of longing and lamented its neglect that I shifted my focus to Samoa. In his final hours, I made a promise to him that I would return and make something of this land.”

After several years of trial and error beginning with an abandoned piggery venture to growing taro for export, Ruth and Kelvin finally arrived at a sweet spot when they decided on beef cattle farming.

Today they have 80 cows and 16 fattening blocks after clearing and fencing over 140 acres, but farming on the big island has come with its challenges. Without access to water and electricity they had to be creative in finding solutions while minimizing their farm’s impact on the environment which is why Kelvin installed a solar power generator and a gravity-fed water irrigation system by up-cycling existing resources.

“It’s important to us that we do our best as caretakers of this land, to preserve the environment for future generations and we aim to apply sustainable farming principles wherever we can while growing the farm” said Ruth. “We’ve put in a solar power system at the farm which powers our electric fence and because we don’t have access to any water supply, Kelvin built a gravity-fed water system connected to the roof of the shelter which moves the rain water through water storage tanks to all the blocks for the cattle to feed.”

Earlier this month, Ruth Aickin was one of 182 beneficiaries of the SAFPROM Matching Grant Programme who signed their Grant Agreement and will be utilising the funds towards purchasing large water tanks for their beef cattle farm. “We have 16 fattening blocks and we move our cattle every 12 to 24 hours so the most important thing that we need are water tanks because when you have a good supply of water, you have a better product because the cows are happy. We’re really grateful that we can get some assistance through the SAFPROM for more water tanks.”

Kelvin comes from a farming family in Hamilton, New Zealand, and is a butcher by trade which is not only an advantage when it comes to processing their own meat but local farmhands benefit by learning new skills and gaining experience in best slaughtering practices.

“We process our own beef on the farm and sell at the Salelologa market on Saturday – Ruth makes soup which goes fast! We offer steak burger, chop suey, sausages and the elderly really appreciate the ground beef mince.” Said Kelvin.

“We have a mini butcher shop where we mince all our meat, cut the steak and pack everything ourselves. We also employ local workers and I’m teaching the boys how to slaughter beef properly. I’m building a proper slaughter house and plan to teach the workers how to break down and bone out beef.”

Although Ruth and Kelvin have had a major lifestyle change swapping the city life for the rural village living, they have embraced the laid back and more traditional way of life in Savaii with plans to contribute more of their skills and experience to help other farmers scale up their farms more sustainably.

“Our goal is to grow the farm and be completely sustainable and if we can get if off the ground and make it work, then our hope is that other farmers can do the same but it will take a lot of work,” says Kelvin. “You can’t do anything unless you work and that’s something we hope to instil in our workers and also teach them about the importance of animal welfare. We are up in the farm early in the morning until late at night every day checking on our cattle.”

Ruth adds “but it’s not just about business; it’s a great lifestyle here in Savaii. We had to do a bit of adjusting, and they accept us now in the village because they know we want to contribute and help serve by sharing our knowledge and experience. We live on a beautiful island and if you can sustain yourself, it’s great – we really enjoy it.”

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