Tucked away on her family’s 430ha (effective) sheep and beef breeding and finishing property in Tuatapere, 4th generation farmer Marilyn Parris farms alongside her husband Nathan. Each year the couple lamb 3800 ewes and buy 150 calves yearly which they finish to 18 months.
Marilyn has always had a love for animals and the outdoors, growing up she was always keen to get out and help her father on the farm. When Marilyn was a child her grandmother always said “if you wanted to know what was happening on the farm, ask Marilyn”. Along the way she also developed a passion for horses which gave her even more reason to get out and about on the farm checking stock as she rode.
In 1996 Marilyn underwent surgery to correct a scoliosis curve in her back which required a major spinal fusion. However, it didn’t slow her down much due to her continued motivation and passion for the outdoors. It was at this time that she realised the chances of her being able to handle the physical side of farming on her own after she finished school & study were slim, so put a lot of focus on science and maths at school. Fast-forward to 2001 this all paid off and she was the 3rd generation in her family to attend Lincoln University, the second to complete a Bachelor In Agricultural Science and the first to complete Agricultural Science with Honours (Agronomy).
Marilyn’s plan was to become a fertiliser rep or work in some other position within the primary industry. It was while in her first year at Lincoln that she met her husband Nathan who was studying Parks & Recreation Management but was also very passionate about agriculture. When Nathan finished at Lincoln he went dairying with the end goal of buying a sheep and beef farm. Marilyn knew there were going to be opportunities to work in agronomic research in Canterbury if she completed her degree with honours, so studied for two more years before taking a job with PGG on their research team at Ceres farm at the end of 2004.
In 2006 Nathan and Marilyn were married then took on a dairy farm management position, however in 2007 they decided to change direction to become better skilled to return to Marilyn’s family sheep and beef farm. With this goal in mind they moved to Darfield where Nathan took a job on a mixed cropping farm. Marilyn continued with PGG Wrightson Ltd at Kimihia Research Centre where she was now overseeing several grazing experiments with plantain, brassicas and herbs. She learnt a lot about growing lambs and cattle quickly and the grazing systems that worked best for each forage, something that has defiantly come in handy while farming today.
Following a nine-month stint which comprised of working in the UK on cropping farms, casual labouring jobs & travelling around UK and Europe, Marilyn & Nathan returned home to Birchgrove and started their family in 2010 with the arrival of Sophie (now 7) and a few years later Caitlin (now 5).
Eight years on and they now own the family farm and are constantly looking for ways to challenge themselves with finding the happy median of production and environmental sustainability. Marilyn recently upskilled herself on the financial side of the business by completing the Understanding Your Farming Business course with the Agri-Women's Development Trust (AWDT) last year. They were fortunate enough to be selected as one of the pilot farms with the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), and as a result their production leapt 9% in the first year of the programme. Very inspiring results!
Horse riding still remains one of her favourite hobbies and now she is getting to share her passion with her daughters. Marilyn inherited a huge flower and vegetable garden from her grandparents so when she isn’t working or playing with horses you can generally find her happily keeping up with the gardens. She feels very fortunate to be able to live in an environment that allows her to have the best of both worlds of work and play.
“It’s amazing to be able to bring up our two daughters Sophie and Caitlin in nature’s playground with rural values especially when it’s the same playground I grew up in. My chosen lifestyle and industry is constantly challenging but very rewarding.” Marilyn finds being an agwoman very fulfilling and is a very dedicated woman. Your family is very lucky to have such a talented woman among them. All the best for the future.