When Marina married her farmer some 25 years ago, she had a vision to create their own piece of paradise nestled on a 200 acre block near Waiau in New Zealand’s South Island. Currently the proud owners of RhodoDirect, one of New Zealand’s largest online specialist nurseries, Marina spends her time at their rural property surrounded by beautiful, flowering rhododendrons. A passionate community person, Marina facilitates workshops for rural women who seek to have more confidence and learn how to better manage stress in their lives. Chairperson of the Hurunui Garden Festival, she aims to drive tourism in their region of North Canterbury and show off it’s natural beauty.
When asked what concerned Marina about the health and safety of those in rural industries, Marina spoke of the trauma inflicted upon her local community in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in 2016. Marina’s response to this crisis was to attend each and every event which showcased speakers offering assistance for mental health, acknowledging the tools they offered and stating that “No good comes from keeping secrets and no one can help you if they don’t know you have a problem”.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Motivated, passionate, contributor.
Tell me something interesting about yourself...
I married a farmer 25 years ago and moved to a place I never knew existed. We renovated an old farm cottage on his 200 acre block before leaving each day to work on his father’s 3000 acre farm. I knew that there wasn’t a place for me on the farm and nor was I interested in making a place for me in his world – but I wanted us to have our own world. So I suggested we start up a business together on his farm. First we planted olives, but they all died, so planted again and they all died again. Then we planted hazelnuts and I created two recipes to sell our hazelnuts in. The hazelnuts suckered and drove us both nuts. Finally we settled on growing rhododendrons and we set up a New Zealand wide rhododendron business called RhodoDirect. We planted like mad and created rather a large garden. Now I’m also the Chairperson of the Hurunui Garden Festival, and our aim is to aid in tourism for our region.
What's one achievement you are most proud of?
Our three children are my proudest achievement. Jordan, 21, is finishing a degree in criminal justice at the University of Canterbury. Our twins Jessica and Ashley (girl and boy) have just left home for boarding school and are both loving their new schools. Our children have all helped us on the farm and in the nursery and we look forward to their trips home as they love to return to the farm most weekends.
What makes you truly happy?
Connecting with friends, sharing special occasions and making the most of each and every day. I adore the view of the snow-capped mountains from my home and I love the seasons and changes in the land we call home.
What do you love the most about being a rural woman?
I adore my community. I love the older rural women who encourage me and nurture me, I love my peers who are my friends who bring colour and joy to my life and I love the generation below me who I am now helping to nurture and support. I love the sharing of stories, lives and struggles. I am so glad to live in the generation where sharing and storytelling is encouraged. I feel sorry for the generation of women who felt that they did it best by keeping their struggles to themselves.
Tell me about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing on the farm, boat or in some other aspect of rural life.
After the magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in 2016 that rocked our North Canterbury community, I was worried for us all, but especially worried for those who had lost their homes, fences, shearing sheds, water troughs and more. I was worried for my own children who were terrified to be alone, return to school and sleep without me beside them. I was worried for my farmer who was busy trying to fix every fence as fast as possible, and get to and from work on broken roads. I was worried for my friends who were separated from our community because of road closures and who I didn’t get to see for two weeks. I was worried for our business because the road to our property was closed for three months and I was worried that nothing would ever feel normal again. But three years on, life now feels normal again.
What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?
I volunteered for the community as part of the welfare team, delivering food parcels to people’s homes and checking in on them with regular visits. I attended every event with speakers who came to our community offering assistance for depression, stress and anxiety – hoping to pick up every idea and thought that I could to add to my tool box. I moved my own children into our bedroom and set up their beds in our large bedroom so we could all sleep together and feel safe together until they decided that they wanted to return to their own rooms. I handled the insurance and the house repairs so my husband could focus 100% on the farm and what he needed to do.
Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done?
My daughter challenges her father, she is only 13 at the moment but she is the one who really gets the important messages through to him. “Dad you need to go fishing”, “Dad you need to relax”, “Dad you need to get a real truck your old one is nearly dead”. There is something very special about their bond and I’m very grateful to her for the insight she already has into what her Dad needs and how she is committed to helping him. He listens to her.
If you could give any advice to another rural woman about work health and safety in rural industries, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?
Talk to other rural women, share your concerns and ask what they have done. Be willing to ask for help from rural women that you trust, be brave and tell them the struggles you are having. No good comes from keeping secrets and no one can help you if they don’t know you have a problem.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I was studying psychology before marrying my farmer. As well as running the rhodo/garden business I also facilitate workshops for rural women who want to have more confidence, hold courageous conversations and manage the stress in their lives. I adore my work and love having a table full of rural women who can share together and learn from one another and support each other on the journey. I have collaborated with another rural woman and one of our special projects is called InsideOUT Confidence.