Our brand new six-part television series!
There is an amazing resourcefulness and depth of talent to the women of the land in Aotearoa. In this six-part series for Sky Open, we profile three women per episode, all connected by a sense of place, and sharing stories of courage, commitment and community.
Each week we visit a different town or settlement and in each place, we explore the women’s sense of self, her whānau, her community, and the landscape in which she lives. Unearthing untold stories of provincial New Zealand and amplifying them for a wider national audience, Shepherdess believes every woman has a story to tell.
Led by the woman’s voice, Shepherdess leans into the rhythms and routines of life on the land as we slowly unravel their world, exploring their personal thoughts and feelings.
Their stories are not just about cows and grass but are intimate accounts of identity and culture, art and entrepreneurship. The eighteen women we meet share diverse stories, expressing the passions and struggles of a broad range of experiences, from those of mana whenua to French arrivals; from women in their twenties to their eighties; from women who are mothers with young kids, to women who are trying to find meaning once their kids have left home; from women who live in families with traditional values, to those who embrace more progressive identities, sexualities, and life paths.
Aired at 7.30pm Sunday 22nd October
The tiny town of Tokanui in the Catlins is a close-knit community, and when something is happening in town, people from the surrounding hills flock in – people like Emma-Kate Rabbidge, the young mother of four who runs a shearing business; Sheila Smith, the Welshwoman who uprooted herself form corporate London to follow her husband back to his family farm and now runs a design store out of a converted agricultural supplies building; and Serena Lyders (Ngāti Porou), a sixth generation shearer from shearing royalty who has found her calling as a traditional healer, working with shearers all around the motu.
Aired 7.30pm Sunday 29th October
The Central Otago rail trail connects the villages of Ophir, Lauder, and Ōmakau. Val Butcher has been the Postmistress of Ophir for the last twenty-two years, the oldest continually running postal service in the country; Alice Caron recently purchased Ōmakau’s Muddy Creek Café, where she serves French classics with a New Zealand twist, winning the locals over; and Abi Brook-Miller lives with her husband and two kids in an off-grid home on their lifestyle block in Lauder, where she runs a small busines, sewing nappies and baby clothes from upcycled fabric in an old rabbiters hut on the property.
Aired 7.30pm Sunday 5th November
Tora is an isolated community with a farming and fishing history located on the rugged South Wairarapa Coast. Here, Claire Edwards (Ngāi Tahu) runs Tora Collective with her partner Troy – harvesting kaimoana seasonally and only to order, they are on a mission to change New Zealand’s relationship with kaimoana; Kiri Elworthy runs the three-day Tora Coastal Walk, taking in the rugged coastline, native bush and farmland; and Fiona Firth who commutes two hours a day to work in town as a nurse from the farm where she lives with her husband and three kids.
Aired 8.55pm Sunday 12th November
Pōrangahau is a small but strong community in Central Hawke’s Bay. Tania Nicholas (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine) left her career as a Māori Land Court lawyer to follow her husband Orlando back to his hometown and has become involved in the community – including setting up a coffee cart in an old horse float in their driveway. Piri Galbraith (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) married her highschool sweetheart, a local farmer, and runs two local businesses, the Kurawaka Retreat Centre and the village’s dairy. An English shepherd on a station, Izzi Corke, has found herself at home in Pōrangahau.
Aired 8pm Sunday 19th November
On the south bank of the Waitaki River, Te Kohurau Kurow services the district and the remote stations that surround it. Here, Jaz Mathisen lives on the high-country Awakino Station, where she cooks for the shepherds with her three young girls by her side; Taieri Hore, recently retired after twenty-four years as the district Plunket nurse, spends much of her time riding her beloved horses; and Chloe Lodge is a documentary photographer who has travelled the world and now finds herself settled into the community, raising her two children as a solo mum.
Aired 7.30pm Sunday 26th November
Amidst the rolling hills and winding roads surrounding the tiny village of Upper Moutere, are an eclectic community of artisans and growers. Alesha Bilborough-Collins is a chef who has turned her half-acre section into a sprawling garden and commercial kitchen, from which she runs her business, BearLion Foods. Nearby, Emily McCall works alongside her mum growing peonies and saffron on the farm that has been in her family for four generations. And around the corner, alongside a Buddhist centre and a nudist retreat, Fleur Woods, a stitched-painting artist, creates beautiful artworks from traditional and contemporary embroidery techniques.
Read about the series in the media:
Kiri’s tramps & trials in rural New Zealand - New Zealand Woman's Weekly
Local rural women in the frame - Wairarapa Times Age
New Shepherdess TV series celebrates rural women - Farmers Weekly
Telling Rural Stories - Essence Magazine (page 28)
Ophir postmistress calling time on the job she has loved - The News, Central Otago and Wānaka
The Country with Rowena Duncum - NZ Herald's The Country radio show (listen from 33:50)
Screentime: Anatomy of a Fall, Shepherdess - RNZ (listen from 6:50)
Murder mysteries, thrillers, and rural women - Saturday Morning with Jack Tame on NewstalkZB (listen from 2:50)
TV preview: Is this the new Country Calendar? - The Listener