Liarna White

Jolarna Trust
Tell us about your background.

I was born in Gisborne, and I was blessed to also spend time growing up in the Cook Island and New South Wales, Australia due to my parent’s jobs. We moved back to Gisborne full time when I was in high school. I  have always been drawn to working on the land, I was very fortunate that my grandparents had a small farm up in Tolaga Bay. My grandfather kept a huge vegetable garden and he would be constantly trying out new varieties of potatoes, carrots, lettuces and many others. I spent many very happy school holidays on the farm helping out.  After secondary school I took a gap year and spent some time in Canada, where I was exposed to the glasshouse growing industry, It was massive then (enormous now). That was when I made the decision that I wanted to be in food production, as the growing world needs to be fed healthy food  and we will have to achieve this using the finite resources available to us. So I came home and went to Massy University to study Horticulture. I then went on to work in postharvest kiwifruit, as well as on the orchard. During and between having children I have worked in various industry roles. Then with my husband we purchased his family orchard in Opotiki and it has all grown from there.

What do you do now?

With my husband, we grow Kiwifruit and Avocados in Opotiki, Gisborne and Te Puke. I run the admin, finance, staff training, Health and Safety and orchard management side of things among others. Lots of stuff is done together but I am the organizer.

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

I have held a number of roles in a packhouse setting, as well as on orchard learning a gaining experience in the Kiwifruit industry and also in project management roles.   All which have helped build the skill set which we need to run our business.

What’s the best thing about your role?

The ability to be flexible and to work around the kids, to work in and be part of an industry that I love. I get to produce healthy food to help feed the world.

Do you travel much for the role ?

I travel regularly between our orchards. Travel has become an important aspect of running a successful orchard due to the spread-out locations, it enables me to be hands on and lead from the top by example. It requires plenty of planning to ensure that the kid’s needs are met too.

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 3 wonderful children, 2 are school age and 1 preschooler. Achieving balance is hard and it is something that I have to work on actively. My biggest challenge was/is that I would often feel that when I was working, I would be missing out on the kids and if I was with the kids I should be doing something that was needed for the business.  What I have found the best way to deal with this is planning. I do lots of planning, each week I spend time planning. I set boundaries with my time, so that I can focus on family time and give my family my full attention and when I working I can be on task and focused during the set times. It is still a challenge but it’s a definite improvement.

Was being a woman a hindrance or a help in getting this role?

No, the only hindrance is myself at times.

Do you have any qualifications?

Bachelor of Applied Science. Half way through my level 2 in Te Reo.

Did you require any specific education or training for this role?

Not really, I am an avid reader and I am continually looking for ways to improve myself and add value to our business.

If you had your time again would you do anything different?

I love my life. The only thing I would tell my younger self would be to go easy on yourself and enjoy the journey.

Do you have any advice/tips for other women wanting a role like yours?

There are challenges to getting into orchard ownership but starting small and building up, taking opportunities, thinking outside the square has allowed us to be very productive and grow our business.

As a woman involved in horticulture is there anything that you would like to see change that would make your life/role better?

I would love to see more women in leadership in horticulture. Visible pathways for women to move up. There are lots of things that are happening in our industry to encourage women to be involved and to move up to these levels. Women in Horticulture is a fantastic place to help encourage women to succeed, it is wonderful to see women celebrating each other’s successes.

Are you on any Boards? If so which ones

Not yet.

Anything else you would like to add?

That if you are doing what you love, keep doing it and if you don’t love what you are doing, keep looking.