‘I need to be a part of this’: Giaan Rooney on farming and how she’s found her place - evokeAG.

Use of cookies

The evokeAG. website uses cookies to enhance your experience and optimise site functionality.

Please refer to our Cookie Policy for more information on which cookies we use and how we collect and use your personal information through cookies

Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

‘I need to be a part of this’: Giaan Rooney on farming and how she’s found her place

Nearly one in ten Australian workers switched jobs in the past 12 months – the highest rate in a decade. And nearly two-thirds swapped their industry over their occupation, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. Someone who’s made the switch is Olympic swimmer and gold medallist, Giaan Rooney. TV presenter, media identity – and now a macadamia farmer.
The self-confessed ‘outsider coming into the ag world’ shares how she’s put down roots on a macadamia farm in Northern New South Wales.

Giaan Rooney Giaan Rooney. Image | Australian Macadamias.

Where do you live and what do you do?

I live in Corndale, New South Wales (NSW) with my husband Sam and two children, Zander, 10, and Alexa, 7. Depending on who I’m talking to I say I’m 25 minutes out of Lismore, or 40 minutes out of Byron Bay. 

RELATED: Career agility with Dr Penny Schultz 

I’ve always struggled to describe my job title because I don’t really have just one. Post swimming, all I wanted from life was for it to be challenging, exciting and not mundane – and I certainly got that. The easiest way to describe life right now is that I live in the country and for the most part, work in the cities. We are a macadamia and beef farming family since 2020, living on 70 hectares in the Northern Rivers of NSW where we have 3000 macadamia trees and about 80 head of cattle and could do with a few more. I absolutely love it.  

My husband Sam is a fifth-generation cattle farmer who grew up in country Victoria and most of his family live in country NSW. His world is all agriculture-based but I knew nothing about farming or the ag space whatsoever until I met Sam. The wonderful thing is he knew nothing about my world either, so we’ve both learnt together.  


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Giaan Rooney (@giaan.rooney)

What innovative tech or practices have you implemented on farm?

Once our new sheds are built, we are installing a FarmDeck surveillance and weather station with three surveillance cameras being set up at opposite ends of the farm that will talk to each other and allow us to have eyes on every corner of our farm from wherever we are. It’s also a high-tech weather station that measures, monitors and stores data on weather conditions, moisture levels, precipitation, wind speed and direction to be more precise with ideal spraying, sowing and harvesting weather conditions.  

RELATED: CSI but not as we know it; how Katia Taylor’s taking on a Carbon (in) Soils Investigation 

We have a Gallagher system on order which is inbuilt in the cattle crush. It automatically scans an animal as it enters the crush, and records data such as weight, treatment history, travel history, and birth data.

We’re in the early stages of implementing innovation on our farm, but we’re really excited to grow and see where it takes us.

Giaan Rooney walking with her dog in a macadamia orchid.

Image | Australian Macadamias.

What has been the greatest challenge and greatest joy that farming has brought you?

In my swimming days I had a quote on the back of my bathroom door that read, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’. It was a simple equation of A plus B equals success. I loved it, but it cannot be applied in the same way in farming.  

It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how passionate you are, how rational you are with decision making – you can be all that and more – and Mother Nature will still have completely different ideas for you.  

RELATED: All aboard to new opportunities; what CropX’s first Australian acquisition means for agrifood tech 

When we bought the farm, the previous owners shared stories of being surrounded by bushfires and buying water in the drought. Then the year after we arrived it rained every day for three months. The nearby town of Lismore was completely flooded, and another flood hit just a month later. We couldn’t harvest our nuts that we had grown and looked after, and for ourselves and other farmers in the area, that year and the following brought such a low nut price. The inputs far outweighed the prices on the other end, and it was a huge learning curve for me about this farming business.  

Ultimately, you have to love – and I truly do. As they say, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.  

Who has been a mentor for you on your agricultural journey?

Funnily enough, it’s my husband, Sam. He has such a strong sense of self. As a farmer, you’ve got to trust your gut and know when to step off the path of how things have always been done. There’s a lot of information available but Sam has an innate ability to say, ‘not everyone is doing it that way and I believe this is a way that is right for us in our part of the world.’  

RELATED: Lobsters, artisan cheese and ‘exploding ingredients’: How these food innovators are pivoting to be price-makers not price takers 

I think a lot more innovation is coming to the world of farming, and I can see time and time again where Sam’s instincts have been spot on.   


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Giaan Rooney (@giaan.rooney)

What achievement have you made in farming that you’re most proud of?

The fact that I’m actually valuable. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing – and that’s just not part of my psyche. I’ve always felt so uncomfortable with the feeling of not adding value to someone or something. Now, while it might be Sam or our employees out collecting the nuts on the harvester, I’m in the shed sorting them. When we’re fencing, it’s Sam out the back doing the physical labour, but I’m driving the tractor so that he can access the post driver without having to get back in the tractor and move it. I’ve found my place.  

I am proud of myself but it’s also the only way I can operate. I need to be a part of this. It isn’t just Sam’s world and I’m coexisting beside him.

I wanted this and I’d love to do even more, to drive every piece of machinery on the property, and move cattle on my own but I’m still figuring out how they operate – both of them.  

RELATED: Five agrifood innovators share how they score a premium 

One lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way?

I don’t want to say farming can be brutal…but it’s true.

It’s a tough industry to be part of because it’s not entirely up to you what your destiny is. I know the world resilience is thrown around a lot, but you really do have to be resilient.

If there was a broader understanding from people to be able to understand what farmers go through daily to provide the food we eat and the clothes we wear, then we’d have a much better relationship and support of our farmers and farming families. 

What’s ahead in your five-year crystal ball?

We’re very aware that farming probably isn’t going to be our only source of income. I have a fulltime job, Sam has a fulltime job, and the farm is our third baby. So, we’re trying to find a way to work with the land so that it’s mutually beneficial for both because we love the industry, we love the lifestyle that it affords us and our children, and I’ve so completely fallen in love with the people in ag. The way they look after their land and animals, not only from an income stream, but from a genuine connection to the land around them – I feel so honoured to be a part of it. 

RELATED: Nine surprising celebrities and brands invested in the ag sector 

Giaan Rooney with her dog Roy.

Image | Australian Macadamias.

In the time it takes for the kettle to boil, what’s your favourite thing to do?

Watch the sunset. If I only have five minutes, I’ll use it watching the light on our property at the end of the day.

Some people say they get that restorative feeling from jumping in the ocean; for me it’s being bathed in the afternoon glow of the light overlooking our farm.

It just washes away what has happened that day and restores the belief that we are in the right place for us.

Tickets are now on sale for evokeAG. 2025 to be held on 18-19 February 2025 in Brisbane, Queensland. Following a sell-out event in 2024 we are encouraging delegates to secure their tickets, flights and accommodation early.

We look forward to seeing you in Brisbane for evokeAG. 2025. In the meantime, catch up on the other conversations about sustainability, climate resilience and the role of agtech in meeting those challenges from here.

Read more news
Read more news