It was with real pleasure and much anticipation that we drove up to visit with the crew at Oamaru Organics to meet James, one of the new owners and to see the changes and improvements Nigel had made in the 6 months since the business changed hands.
Oamaru Organics (previously Brydone Growers) are a highly valued market vendor. The business went on the market a year or two back and we were all nervous about the potential of losing them from the market. Fortunately others saw the potential in continuing to grow, high quality certified organic vegetables and actually in fact have plans to improve the distribution of not only certified organic vegetables but other organic products as well.
James Porteous, Marc Lanson and Nigel Clarke are co-owners of Oamaru Organics. James lives in Cromwell and has several organic Thai restaurants. He believes in convenient, heathy, delivered to your door food. He has a fleet of electric vehicles doing home deliveries and runs a chilled truck from Oamaru Organics to Central Otago with organic vegetables, organic milk and organic meats. He has a strong commitment to the land and has set up a large scale worm farm in Arrowtown that all his waste goes to. In order for other café and restaurant owners to buy organic vegetables from them they must commit their food waste to the worm farm. James has Turners and Growers in his sights to turn their waste into compost via a worm farm. It makes a ton of sense that if you want to rejuvenate the food cycle process you must increase the carbon in the soil.
Nigel has worked this large acreage of “totara tar” (volcanic soil, nutrient dense and geographically unique it imparts great flavour to vegetables) for many years and knows the land intimately. The Chinese first developed the land as market gardens and since 1999 it has had BioGrow status. The northerly facing aspect and gentle gradient means that the temperature can vary up to 5 degrees celsius from the bottom to the top of the property. As a consequence they can grow frost tender salad greens all year round. The fairly persistent easterly wind helps keeps bugs at bay.
Nigel’s philosophy revolves around maintaining healthy soil and irrigating when required and nature will take care of the rest. He practices crop rotation, in-situ composting and intersperses rotations with green, manure crops. Compost tea helps replenish the soil and keep up the biological activity.
Oamaru Organics is run over 60 hectares with about 45 in organic vegetables and another 15 in organic baleage. The certified organic supply chain really needs developing. If James wants 100% certified organic takeaway Thai food in his outlets then he has to provide full traceability including the food the animals eat. So far there is no organic pork in NZ, so guess what? Pork is off the menu! By growing animal food the organic way they are aiding other primary producers keen to be organic but struggling to find organic feed for animals.
It was such a treat to get the guided tour of the property. The soil was dark and friable and in various stages of cultivation. Jersey Benne potatoes were being harvested, spring cabbages looked lush, some ground was ready for planting, other plots were growing green crops to be dug in to nourish the soil. The soil actually supports the vegetables to grow rather than being purely a medium to pump chemical fertilisers through to feed the growing plants.
A ton of hard work and a strong knowledge and skills base contributes to the success of this organic vegetable and baleage business. With the new business structure they have become NZ Gap certified. This along with the rigorous BioGrow audit ensures that best practice is maintained.
These three men are to be commended on having a vision to grow, sustain and nourish people and animals in the best possible way. They believe in organics and have committed to strengthening the organic supply chain and distribution network so that more people can benefit from an organic lifestyle.