Helen Barnes

Tomatoes NZ
Tell us about your background.

I studied horticulture at Massey University (Bachelor of Applied Science, in horticulture with honors in plant science). I then worked for a couple of years in the kiwifruit industry, before moving to Wellington. From there I started working for The New Zealand Vegetable and Potato Growers’ Federation (Vegfed), which is now part of HortNZ.

What’s the best thing about your role?

Being able to help growers address some of their most difficult challenges, and hopefully make life a bit easier for them so they can focus on growing great tomatoes!

Do you travel much for the role ?

Yes. Usually once or twice a month I travel to Auckland for a day or two and occasionally Christchurch and other regions. In 2019 I attended the Global Tomato Congress in the Netherlands, and two years ago I went to Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong.

What do you do now?

I am the General Manager of Tomatoes NZ, the industry
body for NZ fresh tomato growers, based at Hort NZ

How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?

I had previous experience managing The New Zealand Asparagus Council, and a range of policy experience in my earlier roles at Vegfed before being appointed business manager of Tomatoes NZ in 2011.

If you have children how do/did you balance your job and family? What are/were the biggest issues? How did you deal with them?

I have four children at school. I work part time (25 hours per week) and am lucky enough to have the flexibility to set my own hours and often work from home. That makes it possible to balance both work and home. It is still an ongoing challenge though, and I have to be very organized and plan carefully. I also use afterschool care although I like to drop off and pick up the kids from school as often as I can, at least twice a week.