Sarah Johnston is a rural girl through and through who attributes her values, work ethic and drive for life to her parents who raised her in a supportive family environment on the farm. Growing up on a sheep and beef farm in Culverden, North Canterbury, Sarah has fond memories of childhood and teenage years out on the farm as a family – from eating turnips her Dad peeled with his pocket knife, feeding out hay, grubbing thistles, covering the silage heap, to shearing, tailing, dipping and drilling. Farming was very much a family affair, everyone had a role to play and there was a huge sense of achievement when they came in together at the end of the day.
Upon leaving school Sarah attended Canterbury University where she completed a Master of Commerce with Honours majoring in Management. In her final year of study she relocated back to Culverden to live with her family with half of each week spent writing her thesis and the other half spent working on the farm. Sarah then went on to work as a Human Resources Manager firstly in Hanmer Springs, followed by a few years in Auckland where she took on bigger roles with staff numbers of up to 200.
During this time Sarah and her ‘husband-to-be’, Sam had been together for six years with much of their relationship being a long distance one. In 2008 they decided it was time to bridge the gap and Sarah made the move to the Wairarapa to live with Sam on his families 647ha sheep and beef farm at Tinui. Taking on a role as Branch Manager at a new branch of NZCU Baywide in Masterton, Sarah continued to work off-farm until the pair decided to start a family.
Now a full-time mum to three boys, these days Sarah finds her main role is helping to create a happy and healthy family life on the farm. While she isn’t currently working on the farm as much as she will in the future, Sarah is still a critical farming partner to the business and realises the boys won’t be little forever. “My role on the farm is more admin based at the moment. I enjoy being a sounding board for Sam regarding farming decisions and being out on the farm as a family."
Contributing to their rural community is important for Sarah and Sam. Sarah is actively involved in the local Playgroup where she is currently President and is one of the main organisers of their major yearly fundraiser – the Tinui Prime Lamb competition. “Being involved in the local rural community was something my family did when I was growing up and was an important part in my upbringing in the South Island. I like being involved and doing what I can to help."
Appreciative of the continued support from her family and of the opportunity that Sam’s family have provided her, Sam and their boys; Sarah is excited as they embark on the next step of their farming future as a family. “We are really fortunate that farming allows us to bring up our family in such an awesome rural environment.”
Sarah, you are setting up such a great succession plan and work ethos for your boys to follow in your footsteps. The role of the critical farming partner is huge! Enjoy every moment.