Maria Fathollahi

Horti-Business / HortNZ – Northland Careers Progression Manager

School: Rangitoto College, Auckland

Training Institute: B. Science (Major in Plants & Horticultural Sciences) at Lincoln University

Current Employment: HortNZ – Northland Careers Progression Manager

Originally from the big smoke, I always wanted to be a farmer. Not really knowing or understanding the opportunities available to me during my studies, I found myself inspired by my horticulture professors and decided to major in horticulture.

After school I found my first job in the industry, working for Fruitfed Supplies as a technical field rep in Pukekohe and soon managed to purchase a little do-up house in Auckland. It was always my dream to own my own little piece of land, so when the Auckland market had a boom, I cashed up and bought a small avocado orchard in Houhora. My husband and I converted the poor producing avocado orchard into a thriving blueberry business, called Tomo Berries.

We also established several side businesses from the orchard, most notably , our ice-cream retail store on SH1 to Cape Reinga. After selling the orchard part of our business last year, I decided to look for new opportunities and landed a role with HortNZ , coordinating and managing the Northland Careers Progression Project.

What I love about this industry, is the diversity of pathways and opportunities. No one day is ever the same. I never imagined that I would be able to spend my first working days, walking amongst orchards and talking to growers about ways of improving their sustainability. You get to form real personal connections.

Full of exciting challenges and some interesting characters to meet along the way. This industry is filled with a supportive backbone of product groups and industry people. All there to help you take your next step!