1935 – The Royal Gwynne stud comprising 90 acres of land and a homestead named Gwynnelands was purchased for NZ£2,500 for the property to be developed into St Peter’s School.
Professor William Riddet CBE was a foundation director of the St Peter’s School Trust Board. He was well-equipped to provide advice on the management of the farm, being a Professor of Agriculture at Auckland University and a founder of the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute; he went on to co-found Massey Agricultural College.
1937 – Further land purchases grew the farm to 159 acres. It had a milking herd of 35 Jersey cows and a number of dry stock, along with 500 ewes and 250 hens. The school was virtually self-sufficient in terms of meat, vegetables and fruit.
1938 – A further 68 acres was purchased from the estate of James Taylor.
1939 – A cooling plant was added for the school’s milk supply. A Red Poll herd was being established and the Jersey milking herd numbered 50 cows. Pigs were added to the livestock and breeding ewes numbered 300, with around 200 hens.
1940 – A decision to move from mixed farming to intensive dairying, as a result of the War, saw the milking herd grow to 120 and the number of ewes decline to 250. Improvements were made to the buildings and plant. About half the milk produced was sold to Cambridge town, through a Town Milk Quota.
1945 – The birth of the first calves conceived via artificial insemination on the St Peter’s Farm was of significant scientific interest and coincided with a similar occurrence at the Ruakura Animal Research Station.
1947 – Production from the herd had grown to 68,000 gallons.
1947–1971 – The day-to-day running of the farm was done by Farm Manager, Mr Sid Newnham. He received additional practical advice from St Peter’s alumni Geoffrey Hodgson and John Coles who were then trustees of the St Peter’s Trust Board.
1948 – A number of Friesians had been added to the milking herd which now consisted of 15 purebred Jerseys, 38 Friesians and 67 Jersey cross-bred cows.
1954 – The farm contributed almost NZ£12,000 to the school finances.
1960 – Following the death of Prof Riddet, Dr Campbell (Mac) McMeekan OBE, who was superintendent of the Ruakura Animal Research Station, was appointed to the farm board. The farm sold all its milk to Hamilton Milk Producers, on a quota of 349 gallons per day.
1970 – Production had grown to around 250,000 gallons from 460 acres.
1975 – A rotary shed was built where approximately 320 cows were milked, each producing around 500 gallons of milk per lactation.
1978 – The acquisition of additional land from adjoining properties had increased the size of St Peter’s School and farm to 533 acres. Profit from the farm was $60,000.
1991 – Mr Mike Kilgour spent 12 years managing the farm before joining the St Peter’s School staff to teach science and agriculture, later becoming Head of Department for Agriculture.
1995 – The farm’s contribution to school finances was $116,000.
2013 – St Peter’s had established a number of wood lots in the late 1980s and these were harvested and marketed.
2014 – St Peter’s School entered into a Joint Venture with Lincoln University to create the Owl Farm Demonstration Dairy Farm, in conjunction with industry partners including DairyNZ, Ballance, Fonterra Farm Source, Opus, LIC, PGG Wrightson Seeds and Westpac Bank.
2015-18 Stage One Objective – Credibility was established by addressing current performance, whilst setting up the farm for future development. During this stage, the farm operated a pasture-based system based largely on existing infrastructure, to optimise profit while developing a resilient farm system.
2017 – The farm’s land comprised 170 ha with 132 ha actively dairy-farmed. The herd of 431 cows (Friesian/Jersey cross bred) produced approximately 178,000 kg milk solids for the year. 18 hectares had been leased, and a number of restoration zones including native plantings were accomplished in conjunction with the Ngati Haua Mahi Trust. A wetland was established on the south-west side of the farm close to the Waikato river to filter nutrients in the soil.
2018 onwards Stage 2 Objective – Testing and investigating, in conjunction with partners, innovative strategies to produce sustainable profit. The farm system aims to demonstrate requirements of the industry that are relevant and appropriate at that time.
2021 – St Peter’s Agriculture and Horticulture/Agribusiness students developed 0.4 hectares into a radiata pine nursery to grow Christmas trees to be sold in December 2022.