I was brought up as one of seven kids on a fourth-generation family farm in Alfredton. We had the freedom to roam and explore, eeling in creeks and biking around the thirty-kilometre-plus blocks. The family farm has been sold, but having that start in life gave me a love for all things farming.
Saturday tennis was a big thing in the community, with twelve clubs. Then we would all go in our family station wagons to a party. Us kids would have our own social circle in the backyard with the cars.
I have learnt not to restrict people’s choices by what others consider standard gender roles. At seventeen I played cricket for Rangitīkei Old Boys. It was a case of being brave enough to front up to the men and play. I became a teacher and then a school principal. At Te Wharau School I remember being asked to bake for a working bee. Once was enough – I was then welcomed into the more physical roles such as chainsawing. I think women sometimes miss out because we are scared to take a punt on ourselves.
I have (and will continue to) explored the world. I remember when I went to Thailand and Malaysia. I had to engage my senses because there were so many new things – an insect I couldn’t identify, languages I couldn’t understand. It showed me that as well as teaching facts and figures you have to teach students how to learn in other ways. I moved to Pahiatua in 2006. One of my first times shopping at New World I’d loaded groceries into the car and someone offered to take the trolley back from the car park – those small acts help make a healthy community.
Today, my husband Chris and I farm on the hill overlooking the Manawatū River to the north, with the Tararua wind farms to the west. I am surrounded by fifty shades of green and, on a good day, blues as well. We’ve tried to enhance the farm and care for the environment by planting trees and retiring areas. I like that the next owners will choose to make this spot their home, like we have.
GATHER is Shepherdess's storytelling and portraiture project documenting life in provincial Aotearoa New Zealand. In our latest series, we present the words of ten women who call the Tararua District home. Over the past few months, writer Carly Thomas worked with each woman to help them bring their writing to life, and photographer Abbe Hoare visited their homes to capture their portraits. GATHER was supported by the Tararua District Creative Communities Committee, through funding from Creative New Zealand. If you'd like GATHER to come to your area, get in touch with us at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you!
This story appeared in the Ngahuru Autumn 2022 Edition of Shepherdess.
This story is the eighth in a series where we share, in their own words, the stories of ten women who call Tararua home.
Tui, a single mum of three, manages a veritable menagerie on her lifestyle block, works as a part-time phlebotomist and even finds time to volunteer as a firefighter.
What’s a social entrepreneur? Just ask Becks Smith.
Belinda has balanced her dynamic career with raising four children as a widow, drawing on her own dairy farming experience to build connections with customers.