On the next episode, screening 15 October 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:

The Good Shepherd

Steve Thomson grew up in the city, but was mad keen to go farming from an early age. 

When his school days at Lower Hutt’s Naenae College were over in 1973 he entered the farm cadet scheme, then found work as a stock manager in the small community of Tinui in eastern Wairarapa. 

There he met and later married Jenne Groves, who was 4th generation at the 1090-hectare sheep and beef farm Bush Grove. 

Jenne says it was meeting Steve that led to her being the one to take over the family farm in 1984. For Steve, it was a dream come true.

But the dream quickly soured when a change in government led to cuts in farm subsidies, while interest rates went through the roof. Steve remembers their interest rate went up to 17.5 per cent.

The Thomsons tried to farm their way out of trouble by cutting costs to a minimum, doing the shearing themselves, home-killing their own mutton and relying on Jenne’s green fingers to provide vegetables. 

But the 1988 drought was the last straw for Steve.  “That was bloody soul destroying,” he says.  “We all worked from daylight to dusk, but I felt that something wasn’t right in my life.”

Unaware that he was suffering from a treatable mental illness, Steve was on the verge of giving up on farming completely. 

But an eventual diagnosis of depression led to a sea change for both Steve and Jenne. They had been only occasional churchgoers, but now found great solace in God. 

“We both needed God,” Jenne says.  “It seemed to be the right time for us to come back to our faith.”

Eventually Steve wanted to support other local farmers in similar trouble.  “I just started helping people and I decided not to worry about myself.  If God wanted me in this particular position on this farm with a rural crisis on, then he’d keep me here.  And I would make myself available to share what I’d learned with other members of the community.”

Steve now works with the Rural Support Trust, helping farmers who need support.  

He was also ordained as an Anglican priest in 2001 and his time is now divided between weddings and funerals, Rural Support Trust work and their farm, where they’ve employed extra help to keep things ticking over.

Jenne is happy that despite Steve’s personal crisis 30 years ago, they’ve managed to live an enjoyable life on her family farm.  

“We both feel God had a plan for us from the start,” she says.  “Having depression and getting over that, means that he’s been around to help other people and that was the plan that God had right through.”

If you need help for depression you can:

• Talk to your GP

• Contact your local DHB mental health team

• Call the Depression Helpline, Tel 0800 111 757

• Contact your local Rural Support Trust, Tel 0800 787 254

For more about the Rural Support Trust, visit:   www.rural-support.org.nz

For more about depression, visit:   https://depression.org.nz



Dan Henry


Camera & Aerial Photography

Barrington West


Field Sound

Don Paulin 


Editor & Colourist 

Mike Townsend


Post Production Manager

Bailey Palmer


Sound Mixer

Ian Leslie



Stephen Gallagher


Production Manager

Robyn Best



Vivienne Jeffs 


Network Executive

Vicki Keogh


Associate Producer

Dan Henry



Michael Huddleston



Julian O’Brien