Sophie Atkinson has a lot on her plate. At 26 she leases the family farm and is also kept busy with new son Brax. Sophie is the forth generation to manage the 250ha organically certified Pirinoa property in the Wairarapa. She operates a diverse business which includes a mix of deer, sheep, beef, cropping and dairy grazers which keeps life interesting.
Sophie had always dreamed of being a farmer. From a young age she could be found helping her Dad move sheep and was always happy to pitch in. “I have always loved being outside and working with animals. I have always wanted to go farming - I couldn’t see myself doing anything different.”
Whilst still at college she got experience relief milking and by the time she left she already had a job dairy farming. Sophie has turned her hand to a variety of roles from rousing in the shearing sheds which took her over to Australia. Sophie has also been shepherding throughout the Wairarapa and has even worked in retail at PGG Wrightsons. She then gained valuable experience as a Stock Manager in Tolaga Bay on the East Coast before returning home.
Sophie first took over the management of the farm before taking on the lease giving her a chance to learn the ropes first. “This was a great way to transition into the new challenge. I was lucky that my parents left me to it. It enabled me to work out ways to do things without them being involved all the time but knowing I still had their support if I needed it.”
Setting up as a fully organic operation almost 25 years ago, Sophie’s parents decided that this was the way they wanted to farm. Not being common practice at the time, it has meant that Sophie has always been taught to think outside the box and the importance of strategic thinking. With the support of her parents, Sophie has learnt to balance the diversified operation along with the organics side of things. “Organics has been a part of the way we do things on our farm for a long time so the day-to-day running of the farm came naturally”.
Diversification is also something that Sophie sees as an integral part to their farming operation. “For any food producer there are multiple risks to their business that they can’t control, and for us diversifying helps us mange this. “Diversification also allows us to make the most of our 250ha”. At the moment Sophie’s partner Tim works off farm but the goal is to have a business that will allow them to have an economic unit that will support their family. Grateful for being giving the opportunity to lease the family farm, Sophie acknowledges the privileged position she has found herself in. “I am very lucky to be given this opportunity and to get to do something that I love.”
Sophie, you sound like you have transitioned into running the farm extremely well and being able to carry on 25 year old organic farming must a great achievement for you. Good luck for the future. We know you'll do great!