By Eve Johnson
My Irish eyes are smiling as I wake up with a view of the snow capped Southern Peaks of the South Island, New Zealand; and from my organic farm in the lee of the mountains I am still smiling 5 years later.
We emigrated for affordable opportunities, to realise our dream of owning an organic farm, for my husband to drop out of the crazy corporate world, and for me to still be in business but a less stressed environment.
New Zealand’s South Island ticked all the boxes: 1000 people on an island the size of Ireland. Lush, rich farmland as far as the eye could see and affordable without needing to sell a body part. No traffic to battle or motorways to contend with and the Kiwis are welcoming and hospitable (well, they all come from Europe, don’t they). We soon found that they give you 100% on meeting you and it’s up to you to lose it.
However, it wasn’t that easy, and getting a job on arrival was an uphill struggle. It really is who you know on the South Island and I knew nobody, and as for employing a woman who was 5ft, had red hair (with maybe a tinge of that redhead attitude) and was educated overseas was a definite “no no.”
Not defeated, I went door knocking to the organic industry as a seasoned manager in international food, banking and finance, the call centre industry, as well as consulting. My broad skill base coupled with my ability to ‘talk the hind legs off a donkey’ was a small business’s dream!
David Musgrave at Functional Whole Foods snapped me up and my wonderful journey began with Waihi Bush flax seed oil. I don’t think he’s regretted it.
From the slopes of the Alps and Waihi Bush organic farm where the pretty blue flower of Linseed is harvested in late summer, to the picturesque factory where we cold press the extra virgin oil, to the finished product tasting fantastic, it has been a healthy journey. I have met some amazing organic growers from all over the world who settled in New Zealand because of the rural and agricultural opportunities, and whom are passionate about good health and well-being through food.
I am blown away with the heartfelt testimonials from Kiwis, where the oil has healed them from eczema and dry skin to heart problems, the entrepreneurial health shops that are our channel to market, and great practitioners that have championed our brand for 20 years and voted it one of the top ten health food products in New Zealand. All of this keeps me motivated, engaged and passionate.
Putting my good redhead attitude to the test, I fought the Therapeutic Bill that was looking to make the natural health industry regulate as a medicine with astronomical costs and pharmaceutical regulations – We Won! It is so much easier here to make a difference, and to be heard was cathartic.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have also opened up some fantastic opportunities and partnerships for export these last 18 months which has seen the business grow and prosper from Japan to the Czech Republic and now into Ireland, working with entrepreneur Declan Kerins of Kerins Pharmacies, who set up Kerins Distribution. It’s been great to work closely with these markets, and more so for me as it’s that part of me still being at home.
So I am now settled on my organic farm, with a happy husband who has taken to farming like a bee to honey. I have a healthy lifestyle and outlook on life and I can engage my passion in organic health and well-being.