Francis Smith working in his garden in Mitiaro. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU. 20120407
Francis Smith first visited Mitiaro when he was six or seven years old. That was the first time he saw an itiki – the island’s famous fresh water eel. Almost three decades on, he reconnects with the itiki and calls the southern group island his new home.
nine months ago, former Cook Islands rugby star Francis Smith, his wife
Katreena and their children returned to Mitiaro for a holiday.
did he know the short visit would lead to a permanent move to the southern
far, it’s the best step they have taken.
wife Katreena, who is from Mitiaro, they are enjoying the island life of
farming and fishing while at the same learning the legends and history of the
35, spent over 10 years in New Zealand playing professional rugby.
went on to France and travelled around before returning to Rarotonga to settle.
Smith family stayed in Rarotonga for about three years until Covid hit.
because of Covid, thought we would come see family here on the island, learn a
bit of history and ended up loving it here so much that we don’t want to go
eldest daughter studying in Rarotonga, Smith together with his wife and three
younger children spend their time in Mitiaro making use of the natural
surroundings that Mother Nature has for them.
does a typical day look like for Smith?
typical day for me is waking up - going to the plantation, watering the garden,
getting the kids ready and taking them to school,” he says.
by bananas, tomatoes, pawpaw plants, Smith and his wife have also started
planting some herbs in their backyard.
my time in the farm, I am being patient and have learnt that whatever I plant
we can eat and also help others who need food.”
Smith’s seven-year old daughter, Hayley took an idea to her parents - to sell
crops, vegetables, nu and her mum’s special tasty cheese bread.
Francis Smith’s daughter Hayley Smith is the inspiration behind the new Saturday market. Pictured: Hayley spends the afternoon going through some basic training with her dad. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU. 20120408
says the idea was more for his children to earn some cash, as they wanted to
purchase their own fishing rods ($60 each) from the island’s fishing club -
which they successfully did.
who recently started working for the Ministry of Agriculture says the people of
Mitiaro plant miniota, taro, kumara and they are now trying to get them to gain
more knowledge on how to sell produce at the local market.
their farming knowledge comes from their elders/planters which is valuable,
Smith says, and on the island, everyone is willing to help each other -
especially if you are just starting.
future, we will be trying to motivate our young ones to start farming.
Rarotonga has less land to plant, so we want our young ones to plant and
produce more to help feed our people, and tourists coming from New Zealand and
other countries - that is the big picture.
started the job and this is the plan for the next couple of years.”
sportsman, Smith was part of the Cook Islands Games team where he helped with training
some of the participants.
focuses on training kids at the Mitiaro Golf Club some basic golf techniques.
the Mitiaro Sports Committee, he spends time working on the development of the
island’s first ever bowling club, before heading back to the plantation in the
bowling club in Mitiaro maybe the first ever in the Pa Enua I think and
hopefully no one copies,” he says with a laugh.
never know with golf, some of these kids just might be the future Tiger Woods,
rugby player or bowler.”
says Mitiaro is a relaxing place to be.
always a bit hard when people go overseas but hey, this is home, it is a
special place. Home is where the heart is,” he says.
an obligation as a person to give back to our home and look after it, that is
the big thing for me, to give something back to our people.
encourage our kids to go overseas to learn, and for me it was a good idea to go
overseas because I learnt to be more grateful, to be respectful and learnt
about different cultures.”