Alison was born in 1952 in the small farming community of Huinga, New Zealand. She grew up on a 1290 acre sheep farm and was the 3rd of 6 children. They had a very small homestead; so small in fact, she shared a room with her two older siblings. There wasn’t enough room for 3 beds, so she slept in a crib until she was 4 years old! Once her baby sibling was on the way, they finally built an addition onto the house. This house is still standing today (With a few more modern updates!). Alison and her siblings spent much of their pre-school years going along with their parents across the farm with only horses as transportation. It wasn’t until much later in Alison’s childhood that the family replaced the draft horses with a Land Rover.
Her childhood is filled with memories of going across the farm with her family, and family visits in the community. In their spare time, she and her siblings loved catching eels and swimming in the nearby river. Alison loved animals and always had pet lambs and once had a pet calf – she was able to sell her pet lambs for 3 pounds each. As the siblings got older, farm chores included milking the house cows, and separating the milk in a hand separator; taking care not to turn too fast or too slow. Making butter was a Saturday chore. From the get go, the kids were expected to help with all household chores; mowing lawns with a push mower, cooking, sewing, and cutting fire wood for the coal range. The coal range was the only means of cooking and heating the water, so it burnt every day.
Alison was always very eager and excited to be a student at the nearby school 5 miles away. In New Zealand, children begin attending school on their 5th birthday, so it was very disappointing to an eager young Alison when her family did not have a horse for her to ride to school when she turned 5 – this was the most common mode of transportation to school at the time. Luckily, a few months after turning 5 the school bus began running for the first time, and a very eager Alison began school.
Every year the local school held ‘Calf Days’, which included the showing of students’ pet lambs or calves. Alison and her schoolmates were judged on disciplines such as leading, calling and grooming, as well as a written report on animal’s growth. Students also participated in competitions such as ‘Best Sand Saucer and Miniature Garden’ (now known as fairy gardens), ‘Best Vegetable Animal’ , ‘Best Dressed Doll’ (the student had to sew the doll’s outfit), and ‘Best Sponge Cake’ . This day also provided a chance to raise funds from a ‘Bring and Buy’ stall – the kids loved to buy the bags of home-made lollies! Alison’s mum always made an array of lollies for the stall including fudge, Turkish delight and marshmallows.
Alison loved learning and excelled at everything she put her mind to, especially academics and athletics. She quickly progressed through primary school, which was measured by learning progress not age, and was often grouped with the older students.
Throughout her school years she was very active in the community and involved in extra-curricular activities while still helping on the family farm. At school, she was a member of the Gym Club, Athletics Club, Netball Team, Student Council, Choir, Librarian and was a Prefect, Head Girl, Rotary Speech Finalist and Debutante. She went on several school trips including her first out of country trip to Australia, which sparked a love of travelling.
As a child she wanted to become a nurse or dental nurse. In high school, one of her teachers encouraged her to consider other career paths in the math and science fields so she participated in a program which allowed students to visit and experience two professions each day. Through this program, Alison had the opportunity to visit a pharmacy, water treatment facility, dietitian and many others, including Food Technology.
Alison was the first in her family to graduate high school, and having achieved excellent grades she chose to attend Massey University. She completed a four-year Bachelor Degree in Food Technology, with a focus on product development and marketing. It had a practical component and a variety of courses, which Alison credits in part to developing her into a “Jack-of-all-trades, master of none”.
After her formal education was complete, Alison never stopped learning and challenging herself and has over the years taught herself many new skills that she has put to use in both her business and personal life. To this day, Alison is still known to overload her calendar with activities and events including sports teams, theatre, ladies groups and is a member of several organizations.