11 Sep 2020

Living the Dream

From Country Life, 9:07 pm on 11 September 2020
Nicole Masters with her horse Flynn

Nicole Masters with her horse Flynn Photo: Supplied

Kiwi agro-ecologist Nicole Masters is living the dream, touring ranches in the United States with her horse for company.

"I love being able to integrate my two loves which are soil and horses all in one place."

Nicole has been working in the US for seven years now, pretty much full-time for the past three years, running workshops and coaching clients on how to build soil health and optimise water cycles.

Ranging from bison farmers to winegrowers, her clients are progressive operators who are interested in food quality and improving livestock health and pasture diversity.

Living out of her horse truck with horse Flynn and puppy Rain in tow, she says she turns up at a ranch and might do a couple of days coaching and consultancy before heading out on horseback mustering or branding in "some amazing country".

Nicole says she grew up reading the novels of Western fiction writer Louis L'Amour and felt connected to the landscape as soon as she first got off the plane in the US.

"As a New Zealander, it is like something in a book ... it's cowgirls and cowboys connected to the land and living with horses so me being able to combine that is just extraordinary."

She has since written her own book covering the stories of the farmers and ranchers she works with around the world and the keys to their success.

When Country Life called on a late summer Montana evening, Nicole had just stepped outside to snap a photo of a picturesque sun setting amid the haze of the wildfires raging further west.

It's a stark reminder of the pressures many of her clients are under.

"Increasingly it's the cropping guys that are knocking on our door really because of either environmental shocks or the cost of inputs or increasing herbicide resistance or pest problems.

"They are starting to go - we cannot continue to farm in this way ... something needs to change."