Together with friend Sandra Matthews, Marie co-founded Farming Women Tairawhiti (FWT), an organisation whose aim is to inspire and support rural women in the isolated Tairawhiti region of New Zealand. FWT began with 10 members, and four years later has over 600. With the help of a dedicated committee of wonderful women it continues to grow.
As event manager and education manager Marie has helped run rural focus days, workshops, on farm training courses and social and networking events. The work FWT does connects and empowers women in the region, helps them to develop skills and confidence, and is changing lives for the better.
Marie was born and raised on Mangakino Station, a hill country sheep and beef farm in the Gisborne region, on the east coast of the North Island. Growing up, the family farm was the centre of life for her and three younger brothers. There was always shearing, docking, hay making, mustering, fencing and all manner of other farm jobs to keep them occupied. As well as helping her parents, Marie loved time spent with her grandparents on their farm, learning to drive the tractor, helping with feeding out and shifting mobs of stock.
On leaving school Marie completed a Diploma of Primary Teaching at the University of Waikato then returned to Gisborne to live with future husband Rob.
Rob managed a cropping farm for Corson Grain, while Marie taught and helped with the livestock part of their operation after hours. During this time, they purchased their first farm, a 35 hectare cropping and lamb finishing block. Their children were both born during this time and grew up immersed in farming life.
In 2004 Rob and Marie purchased Puketira Station from Rob’s parents, and moved into the Ormond Valley. Puketira is a 345 hectare sheep, beef and cropping farm, which has been in the family for three generations.
Marie continued to teach part time while working part time with Rob in their business, which included the 35 hectares, the family farm, and an off farm business leasing land throughout the region, growing maize and sweetcorn for seed and commercial use.
After 22 years juggling life as a teacher, farmer, mother and wife Marie decided it was time to simplify things, so gave up teaching to focus on farming and family. Soon after this she attended an Agri-Women’s Development Trust course which became the catalyst for Farming Women Tairawhiti, a project which combines two of Marie’s passions; education and farming.
Alongside voluntary roles with FWT and the Ormond Community Hall Committee, Marie plays an integral part in their day to day farming operation, and is equally at home weighing and drafting sheep, vaccinating cattle, driving a tractor or handling the administration side of the business.
There is never a dull moment and life is very full, but so long as Marie is busy learning alongside and helping others, she is happy.