Wharerata Farm | Motherhood and farming all in a day’s work for fifth generation farmer

When Sophie Atkinson took over running the family farm Wharerata in Pirinoa late last year, she became the fifth generation to manage the property.

Wharerata is a 247-hectare organic sheep and beef farm located in south Wairarapa. The farm also raises antibiotic-free deer, with around 300 breeding hinds. Sophie, who is only 26, runs the farm single handed while her fiancé Tim works off-farm in Greytown for a beekeeping business. Sophie and Tim’s six-month old son Brax accompanies his mother on her farm jobs, carried in a front pack or tucked up beside her in the CanAm.

“I do get help over the winter period and during busier times of the year like lambing or break feeding. Tim helps when he can, especially during his quiet winter period at work,” says Sophie. “Luckily, Brax is a fairly easy baby, but down the track, ideally Tim will not need to work off-farm and we can make enough from the property to support the family!”

Sophie transitioned to take over the farm operation from her parents, Ian and Heather, allowing time to manage the business and learn the ropes while her parents still owned the stock and plant. She then purchased the stock and plant outright and formed a company to lease the land from her parents.

Farming is in Sophie’s DNA, as she explains. “Mum and Dad instilled in me a love of agriculture and I have always loved being out on the farm. Since I was very little, I spent every moment I could out with Dad. During school terms, I would spend every weekend helping out. Some people ask me what it’s like being a young woman running a farm alone – I tell them it feels completely normal. I’ve always been interested in farming – it’s been normal to me forever.”

While Sophie has taken over the management of the farm, her father is still involved, although more in an advisory rather than a practical capacity.

“We have always got on well. In the first year, while I was finding my feet, Dad was always there for me. He is a very good teacher and is the first person I go to if I’ve got a question. We both are strong and stand our ground, and it’s great to have his support with my decision making.”

Moore Stephens Markhams Wairarapa director Sharon Parker was Sophie’s parents’ accountant, and remains working with the family.

Sophie uses CashManager Rural and now does her monthly coding, learned on the job and in courses she took a couple of years ago. Sharon handles the end of year financials and provides Sophie with ongoing advice.

“I definitely run any queries I have by Sharon. Early on we made an arrangement to allow for phone calls during the year if I need her advice. And that arrangement has been well used.”