They may be owners of three (count them, three!) food production businesses, but for Will Crozier and Natalie Field it’s all about the animals.
From their 12ha property in Eyrewell, North Canterbury, the couple operate an export honey business (Bees 2 Honey), their original egg business (Oxford Free Range Eggs), and the newest addition to their busy lives, Benzie Free Range Eggs which they purchased in 2021.
It’s a far cry from their former lives; less than 10 years ago, Natalie was an accountant in the city while Will was a sheep, beef and cropping farmer with an interest in beekeeping. It was that hobby that kicked things off, with the pair gradually making it a profitable sideline, then a full-time job. When the time came to look for an additional business venture to off-set the seasonality of the annual honey crop, they didn’t have to look far. “I’ve always had a passion for chickens,” explains Natalie. “We had actually looked at setting up a chicken farm in the past, so when the time came we just gave it a go!”
What started as 30 hens with enough eggs to make a steady income at the farm gate morphed into Oxford Free Range Eggs in 2018. With regular market stalls and stocking a few local retailers, the business was humming along. But when the chance to acquire Benzie Free Range Eggs came up, the couple didn’t hesitate. “We were supplying Benzie’s with our eggs for almost three years before this, and whilst working together we could see that we had the same values around what was a good egg. When they talked of perhaps selling up we were quick to say we would work with them to achieve an outcome that suited both parties.”
Their existing setup meant they could simply transfer the hens and equipment to their own property and immediately continue the Benzie ethos of ‘Happy hens, roaming free, laying quality free range eggs’. And it’s those quality eggs that consumers just can’t get enough of. The Benzie distribution run consists of over six local supermarkets and almost 30 cafes and restaurants throughout Christchurch and North Canterbury: figures the couple are looking to grow.
But despite their busy schedule involving 1100 beehives, 3,500 chickens and three businesses, at the end of the (very long) day, for this clever couple, it’s really all about the animals. “That’s how we got here,” explains Natalie. “We just really love animals!”
Why North Canterbury? It just feels like home. We have a lot of great friends here and the locals are so supportive of our businesses.
What’s your favourite thing to do in North Canterbury? Other than sleeping? Natalie: it would have to be getting out and enjoying the outdoors and the amazing scenery we have on our doorstep. Will: jetboating the rivers.
Name your top three North Canterbury brands: Brick Mill Cafe – amazing food. Coffee Worx – amazing coffee. And The Grumpy Merino – I really like their marketing and the way they have made their wool so truly unique from everyone else.