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Turiwai Farm: Strength in Endurance

Situated in Te Karaka, near Gisborne is Turiwai Farm, a 63-hectare beef and sheep farm and home to the Baynes-Ryan family. Storm and her husband, Ginge, purchased the hill country property two years ago, relocating from rural Auckland with their four kids, Clancy, Aurelia, Ran and Wyatt.

Originally born in Ōpārau, on the North Island’s west coast (an hour from Hamilton), Storm’s upbringing in a farming family instilled an appreciation for rural life from a young age. Her parents, who have been farming for over 60 years throughout New Zealand, eventually moved the family to Wairoa in 1992 for a 3,700 acre sheep, beef and deer farm.

Storm’s path to farm ownership was certainly not a linear one, and her journey took a lot of hard work, adaptability, and life experience to get her where she is today. After moving to Auckland to study physiotherapy when she was 18, Storm spent four years studying and another four working in the industry before deciding to travel. “I did some nannying over in America, and a few other jobs and then I ended up meeting Ginge, who was a shearer, and we went shearing over in Scotland, and then to Norway. It was a pretty amazing overseas experience. Then we moved to the King Country, and in that time, I worked as a physiotherapist and he got his helicopter pilot’s licence,” Storm said.

The pair also spent time in Gisborne where they started a family, and then four years in Auckland for Ginge’s work. Finally in 2022 an opportunity arose to move back to Gisborne for another helicopter pilot contract. Storm and Ginge knew coming back to Gisborne would suit their family values better and allow them to be adventurous, live rurally surrounded by nature and be close to their parents. After renovating their Auckland home from top to bottom, the pair sold it just the week before the property market crashed.

“The timing meant we were able to purchase this farm, which was our dream initially, but we didn’t know if we were going to be able to do it without family help. But we were, and so we ended up purchasing this and moving in May, two years ago. So it’s just about two years that we’ve been here,” Storm continued.

“The name Turiwai, means plentiful water and at the top of the farm there’s a spring that has never dried up. It’s right at the top of the hill, so there’s water everywhere, as we saw with the tomo (sinkholes) popping up all over the farm. So it’s called plentiful water.”

The 63-hectare property is comprised of 70 bulls (a mixture of Friesians, and ‘accidental births from their heifer mob’), 300 lambs, six pigs, a handful of laying hens and an array of pets such as their hand-reared Speckle Park calves, some ducks, three horses, one goat, three working dogs, a Fox Terrier x Jack Russell and Dave, the German Shorthaired Pointer.

With COVID, challenging weather events and a tough economy at hand, adaptability is a trait the Baynes-Ryan family have embraced with open arms since purchasing the farm. “For the first year and a bit I was home-schooling the kids and running the farm, I reared 150 feeder lambs in the first year, and I was in charge of the day to day stockwork and decision making. However, when Cyclone Gabrielle came, along with all the other massive changes at that time in the farming industry, it became really clear that financially, I was going to need to work off farm as well, Storm said.

“So Ginge has taken over the planning, stock rotations, and general stock health. I help him in the yards and I’ll do any stock shifts I can, because I love working with my dogs. But I’ve had to step back from the decision making because it was just too much with the four kids, the sport, work in the village, in town and online. I just had to give something up. And so while I absolutely adore the farming, and that would be what I would do by choice. I also love my job. So that’s the switch I’ve made” Storm continued.

Storm is now working 30 hours off farm as a physiotherapist; two days a week in a medical centre in Te Karaka and also in a private physiotherapy clinic in Gisborne. She also runs an online physiotherapy business, That Farming Physio, which she is planning to scale up over the next few years in the hope of supporting and educating farmers and the rural community, who have less access to facilities.

“I’m really passionate about people having good lives, and being able to farm as long as they want to. Not having to leave their hill country farm because they can’t walk up the hill anymore, or they haven’t taken care of their niggles and they’ve become an issue. That breaks my heart. And I just really want people to know that we can do something about it.”

Like many others, a year on from Cyclone Gabrielle, Storm and Ginge are still dealing with the impacts of the damage. The cyclone and floods broke through fences, caused slips and destroyed some of the accessways through the paddocks. A key focus for the pair currently is upgrading any damaged fencing and getting the farm back to its original condition. Over time, they hope to continue sectioning off steep areas for native bush, to increase biodiversity and maximise efficiency of their farm.

“Being sustainable is hugely important to us and we just love native bush. This farm is marginal country in some places, and some of it’s too steep to easily and effectively farm stock. So our plan is to gradually retire portions of the farm. It will be done in small blocks, as and when we can fence them off. Anywhere that’s already got trees on it, we’ll just fence off and leave it. Anywhere that doesn’t have trees, the plan will be to plant some pioneer native species, keep the stock out of it and see what happens. That will make the rest of the farm more productive because we’ll be able to do more rotational grazing, we’ll be able to take care of the grass better and feed our stock faster. So it makes everything more efficient.”

“In saying that, the farm has plentiful water, that’s probably our biggest problem at the moment because getting reticulated water to stock is a trickier proposition than dams, but we also want it to be reliable water and we want it to be good quality water for them,” Storm added.

With a long list of goals, and a busy schedule both on and off the farm, Storm acknowledges it can at times feel overwhelming. Taking the time to enjoy nature, eating well, exercising, and talking to people when she’s having trouble, are some of the things she finds helpful for her mental wellbeing. “It’s really important to take care of my mental health. This past year has been brutal, It’s been really hard. But it’s something I can get through. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be fast, but just doing the things that need to be done to just keep ahead, and eventually it will come right, because the cycles always do,” said Storm.

Storm also flies the flag for women in agriculture proudly, a sentiment that was passed down from her grandfather to her parents and then to Storm. “I think it’s really important to have women and men in agriculture because we all bring our own strengths, our own weaknesses and our own points of view. But in saying that, I think it’s important to have people from all walks of life in agriculture. There’s actually not much that anyone can’t do. I was really lucky, my grandfather believed this about my mother and her sisters that they could all do everything, and so that’s been a strong thought for me. And I’ve always known that if I wanted to farm I could,” Storm concluded.