Nurturing the land | Jannine Rickards on gardening, winemaking & kaitiakitanga

Jannine Rickards of Huntress Wines shares with us her growing, gathering and gardening journey and insights.
Images by Bonny Beattie.

For Jannine Rickards, gardening is more than just a hobby, it’s a connection to her whakapapa—a practice steeped in tradition, sustainability and spirituality. As a winemaker and the founder of Huntress Wines, Jannine weaves her love for the land and her passion for kai (food) into every aspect of her life.

Growing up, Jannine was deeply influenced by her mother and grandmother, who were both avid gardeners. She has fond memories of her mum and grandmother working away in the garden. While her parents did grow some vegetables, like marrow and kūmara, it was the beauty of the flowers and other plants in her mum and nana’s gardens that she recalls. This early exposure to gardening instilled in Jannine a lifelong appreciation for the beauty and bounty of nature.

Driven by a desire to live off-grid and be self-sufficient, Jannine’s gardening philosophy revolves around sustainability and organic practices. She’s always wanted to live off-grid and be independent of the system—hunting, growing and foraging. Jannine loves the satisfaction of feeding herself, friends and whānau, a part of her identity reflected in the name of her wine business: Huntress.

Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards
Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards
Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards

Jannine’s edible garden, or māra kai, reflects her unique style and philosophy. Though she is preparing to leave her current property, her garden has been a place of learning and growth. Gardening, she believes, is calming for an active relaxer like herself, offering a sense of achievement—making compost, planting seeds, and harvesting.

“It’s an absolute love of mine to grow a wild kai garden and have lots of fresh herbs and salad greens constantly replenishing themselves. Even this last summer, when I wasn’t around in spring much, it seemed to provide plenty of kai,” she notes. Her garden is anything but conventional, embracing chaos and natural beauty over strict order. This approach has yielded a diverse and vibrant garden, brimming with kohlrabi, purple cauliflower, cabbage, spring onions, rocket, and sorrel.

Looking to the future, Jannine plans to continue her gardening journey with new techniques and inspirations as she moves to a new property. She has learned a lot and, although she loves her raised garden beds, she is keen to try no-dig build gardens like those from We Are Little Farms and Vagabond Vege in the Wairarapa.

Jannine’s vision for gardening is deeply rooted in nature and the rhythms of the world around her. She lives by the mantra “Nature knows best” and is always observing and learning. Like winemaking, gardening requires adapting to changing situations. When she can, Jannine plans her gardening activities around the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) which she finds beneficial in both gardening and winemaking. She’s also a fan of permaculture practices, which stems from observing and understanding nature.

Her journey also encompasses Hua Parakore—a Māori approach to organic growing—and reconnecting with her whakapapa. Though not religious, Jannine describes herself as a spiritual and connected person. The connection to the elements and the spiritual world that Te Ao Māori offers resonates deeply with her. Organics is the key foundation, and biodiversity is crucial for resilience and wellbeing.

Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards
Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards
Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards
Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards

Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards


Cooking and sharing kai is another passion that complements Jannine Rickards’ gardening and winemaking endeavours. Her love for kai began at a young age, nurtured by a farm upbringing where nothing was wasted. For Jannine, kai has always been about bringing people together, creating memorable moments often defined by the food shared. This deep connection to food is more than just about nourishment; it’s about the essence and wairua (spirit) of the kai, considering where it came from, who grew or caught it, and who prepared it.

Jannine’s passion for the social and spiritual aspects of kai is evident in her dedication to manaakitanga—the art of hospitality. From her early twenties, she frequently hosted potluck dinner parties and wine tastings, which became even more abundant when she began hunting and had a surplus of wild meat to share. These gatherings reflect her belief in the communal and connective ritual of sharing kai.

Kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, profoundly influences Jannine’s approach to gardening, winemaking and life. Her experiences in farming and wild kai gathering have given her a deep appreciation for nature, the whenua (land), the moana (sea), and all the elements that sustain them. Growing her own kai at home strengthens her connection to Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) and fosters a desire to be a good guardian of natural resources.

Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards
Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards

Reflecting on her gardening journey, Jannine shares valuable lessons learned along the way. She emphasises the importance of not being too hard on oneself when things don’t go as planned, understanding that sometimes outcomes are beyond control. Gardening reinforces the concept of ‘do the mahi, get the treats’—putting in effort and energy leads to rewarding results. 

For those embarking on their own gardening journey, Jannine offers practical advice and encouragement. She suggests starting small with pots and herbs, gradually expanding each season. She advocates for reading, seeking inspiration, and attending gardening and permaculture courses around the country. Jannine particularly recommends starting with zucchini next summer, as they are easy to grow and provide abundantly.

Huntress Wines | Janine Rickards

Jannine Rickards’ life as a gardener, winemaker, and advocate for sustainable living is a testament to the profound connections we can forge with the land. Her journey is a beautiful example of how embracing traditional practices, sustainability, and a deep respect for nature can lead to a fulfilling and connected life.