For 25 years Golden Bay’s Autumn Farm has operated as the South Island’s only gay men’s rural lifestyle retreat. Now owner Peter Finlayson is looking for new blood to take over and continue the traditions he began.
“On a human attitudinal level, there really hasn’t been a change,” Finlayson tells says when asked whether the community Autumn Farm serves has changed over the years. “Guys just want a safe place to freely express themselves and we encourage that. The sound of guys talking and laughing together is the greatest sound ever,” he warmly notes.
However, two and a half decades has seen a huge impact on the needs of Autumn Farm’s guests.
“When we started out, the place had less facilities than we have now but the guys loved it and adapted to our simple lifestyle and low carbon footprint ideals. Times have changed and folk expect so much now. There is way more pollution in terms of packaging we have to dispose of, and water use has sky-rocketed,” he explains, highlighting how advances in technology have affected interaction. “Phones are everywhere and plugged in to every socket. Guests sometimes bring Grindr and Scruff hook-ups onto the property which we discourage for security reasons.”
While Finlayson’s passion for his stunning property is still palpable, both he and partner Pete are in their sixties and would like to step back from managing the three acres of beautifully manicured gardens and accommodation.
“We are sliding into our senior granddaddy years where we want to mentor younger guys who may be interested in our project. There is a lot of potential yet to tap. We also want to keep living here as long as possible,” he explains.
It was 36 years ago Finlayson, his ex-partner and their three young sons moved to Autumn Farm (an even larger property back then) for a sustainable lifestyle project.
It wasn’t until 1995 that they opened the property up to the community by starting their iconic Summer Camp.
“We noticed that there was a dearth of queer accommodation in Aotearoa. Our policy was to provide a queer male space for guys across all economies, so we developed a Campground, backpacker dorm, funky cabins and elegant lodge rooms for those wanting more services. The style is classic rural country life with shared bathroom facilities set in a large beautiful garden.” Says Finlayson.
Their success came largely from word of mouth, from both local and international visitors.
“Being clothing optional has also been a great draw card,” Finlayson adds, reflecting, “there have been so many highlights that they all merge into one enormous sense of fulfilment. We get lovely comments about the grounds and every year we do a big show on New Year’s night which is very well received. There have been many memorable guests and volunteers who have become friends and regulars who come back year after year. We are very proud of what we have achieved over the years.”
Part of Autumn Farm’s success is Peter and Pete have built the business around their own core values. “We create so much unnecessary pollution. We put so much crap on and inside our bodies. We abuse the gift of fresh water. Autumn Farm is our tiny example of a different way of living. It’s our Garden of Eden… The deep sense of community, simple lifestyle and love for the land is the ethos that sustains this place.”
But Finlayson believes new blood can help Autumn Farm to develop and evolve. “We don’t want to stand still and become a museum. We welcome folk bringing their own unique skills and harmonious creativity to this place,” he says, explaining that the business needs investment in order to reach that potential.
“We can sell shares in the property to fund future development and create three apartments to accommodate the new owners. The business itself would remain a separate entity… [owners] could live here simply as a resident in a queer resort and enjoy those benefits, or participate in the business operation itself.”
Finlayson says as a business Autumn Farm requires people skilled in: “grounds and infrastructure management, administration, promotion and social media, organising staff, creating new income streams.”
There is also an option for potential investors and workers to test the waters as Autumn Farm is looking for volunteers to help out over the Summer. “If you are an able bodied kiwi male with a desire to spend some time in an all-male community check out the ‘volunteer’ page on our website autumnfarm.com.”
Autumn Farm Events this Summer:
Naked Week on now till January 31.
There are still lodge rooms, cabins and campsites available for this wacky all male nude event, now in its 18th year. The only event of its kind in Aotearoa, featuring the Fetish Auction where, if you have enough boy-bucks, your fantasies can come true!
World Naked Bike Ride Saturday March 6.
Join us for the 20th anniversary of this Golden Bay institution. Departs Autumn Farm for a 9 km ride to Pohara for refreshments and prize giving.
Easter House Party April 2 – 5.
A laid back chill out weekend at the end of the season with old friends and new.