The Vinbrux family in lockdown: Alert 3 and 4 are easy peasy for New Zealand’s most self-sufficient family


The lockdown time has meant hardly any adjustment for New Zealand’s most self-sufficient family.

Words: Nathalie Brown, Photos Tessa Chrisp

It’s almost as if the Vinbrux family was born for Alert Level 4. The self-sufficient Ōamaru family, who we first met in the March/April 2015 issue of NZ Life & Leisure, used their breadmaking and vegetable growing skills throughout the lockdown, but their family has been through some changes since we first learned about their inspiring lives.

After more than three years of easing off on their small mixed farm (so that they could concentrate on running a German kaffee haus and bakery in the back streets of Ōamaru) they temporarily closed the store and have returned to their original lifestyle.

The horse stud is no more, “because the kids are not interested in carrying on with it”, says (mother) Christel.

Danny, who is now nearly 23 and still lives at home in the six-strong family bubble, spent three years running his butchery shop but couldn’t find a regular enough clientele to keep it going. Commercial beekeeping keeps him busy even in these locked-down days. He works for a more senior apiarist and has 100 of his own hives near Kurow in the Waitaki Valley.

Beekeeping, like other primary industries, is an essential service. The bees would die without him. When not tending his hives, he takes on the heavier work on the home farm with his father, Richard.

From left: Sarah, Christel, Jan, Judy, Richard at the Vinbrux bakery.

After nearly four years baking truly impressive patisserie items, 22 year old Judy works alongside Christel in catching up on farming and horticulture. Her brother Jan (30) has never been much of an outdoors chap. He’s returned to the farm for the duration, running the kitchen, helping out in the house and renovating the family’s superannuated desktop computers.

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Twenty-four year old Sarah is occupied with feeding and tending her young chicks, and gathering windfall walnuts. They all maintain regular phone contact with the eldest son Fabian (33).

Entertainment? Danny and Judy have been making funny movies to send to their friends. Richard is training a young collie for flock work.

Two weeks after the shut down the family went to the supermarket for the first time.

“We didn’t do any panic buying beforehand but we watched what was happening in Europe and in Germany in particular so, well before anyone else hit the supermarkets, we stocked up on dry goods,” said Christel.

They believe they are coping better than many others might be, ironically in terms of financial security.

Over the years the family has planted a half-hectare orchard. Summer fruit and vegetables are preserved for winter.

“I’ve never adapted to the modern way of doing business, which is to have a high cash flow”, says Richard. “But when cash flow goes down you still have to pay leases, rents, mortgages and so on.

“We don’t spend much money, so money is not particularly a problem. We don’t have lease contracts. We have a 25- year-old car. We own two shops in a row on a quiet street on Oamaru’s South Hill, so we don’t pay commercial rent, and we have almost no mortgage. We’re not a company – we’re sole traders. We’re all owners of the business so there are no wages to pay. We need bugger-all money personally but we take out of the business account some profit when it’s there.

“We never have been used to a regular monthly pay cheque and we don’t ascribe to the growth economy. We have a different philosophy. And we have a system planned for opening the bakery if lock down continues and also for when we go to Level 3 again”.

MORE GREAT READING

 Read more inspiring stories and our 2015 story on the Vinbrux family in our digital edition.

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