Heather's pathway to farming began growing up in Martinborough during her college years. Heather immersed herself in the rural lifestyle and was a passionate Young Farmers member. She fell in love with rural New Zealand. Heather left to pursue a nursing career in Wellington, until romance bloomed with a farmer, Ian, and she returned to Pirinoa (South Wairarapa) where the couple have farmed for the last 33 years.
Heather has loved the opportunity to combine her knowledge of health with Ian’s skill set on the land to manage their property in a way consistent with their values of guardianship (or kiatiaki). For Heather and Ian, this meant certified organic production of sheep, beef, deer, dairy support and grain (since 1990), a Queen Elizabeth covenant, significant biodiversity planting of eco-sourced natives to provide shade, shelter and eco-system services, specialty (ground durable) forestry and the first North island launch of dung beetles. This on farm production of certified organic meat culminated in a grower network, supply chain, wholesale mail-order and retail butchery business with a contract to supply a national supermarket chain.
Heather's passion for New Zealand Ag has lead her into a number of contract positions in the Ag sector – a regional grower group, the national organic sector umbrella group and a national governance role in the Not for Profit sector. Heather also did the Agri-Womens Development Trust Escalator, leadership and governance, training in 2012 and has since gone on to co-found a community group, the ‘South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group’. "I have been the President since its inception, we are charged with improving environmental outcomes in our community. We have a number of planting initiatives happening around our waterways and a major body of work is the annual Farming for the Future seminar (www.farmingforthefuture.org.nz), which has just successfully delivered our fourth seminar – having the important conversations with farmers, policy makers, farm consultants and agribusiness professionals about innovation, profitability (not production), sustainability and alternative land use practises."
Heather feels the team delivering this initiative are a great example of a broadly collaborative team spanning not for profit community groups, private agri-business and a government funded agency. "I feel that we are changing the conversations and behaviours in our region in a positive and constructive way and it’s a real pleasure for me to work with this committed, dedicated and resourceful team – they so get it!!"
Heather and Ian stepped away from their on farm management two years ago for a GAP year and had an amazing 20 months; WOOFing, house sitting and travelling extensively in Europe. "I loved it, learnt, grew myself and loved the exposure to different cultures and experiences." Back in New Zealand they have recently purchased a new ‘lifestyle’ property and are busily ‘recreating’ themselves – new home, new roles, new opportunities and new neighbours. Heather has just added a new part time role as a Disability Advocate and Coordinator to her agricultural roles and is loving it.
Heather, we love that a life in agriculture makes you feel so empowered! Your passion is going to keep making real changes to how people operate in the industry- well done!