One hundred years ago small family-owned market gardens made up most of the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association’s membership roll.
Today, while family-owned businesses are still a big part of the vegetable growing industry the scale of operations has changed a lot, says Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association president Pravin Hari. “Today there are a lot fewer growers, typically with much bigger operations.”
The association, which began in 1918, has been celebrating 100 years of existence as a grower organisation, now representing 230 growers from Northland to Taupo.
In years gone by the onions and potatoes that were grown in and around Pukekohe tended to be consumed by locals. Today, as well as supplying much of the vegetables eaten by Aucklanders and other regions of New Zealand, a lot of produce is exported.
“There is also a more diverse range of vegetables grown today,” says Pravin, with the association’s members producing a full range of root vegetables as well as salad greens.
Pravin says the association came about back in 1918 to help growers secure the best price for their produce – and while this hasn’t changed in 100 years, the issues facing growers have.
“Pest and disease control, land availability, environmental issues, biosecurity and food safety are all very important.
“We have to manage these things if we want to stay in the game,” says Pravin.
Today the association advocates for growers through lobbying, making submissions on relevant legislation, and also undertakes research and development in relevant areas, says Pravin.
“The association is proud of its work to champion and promote best practice guidelines for the sustainable management of the natural and physical resources of the district among commercial vegetable growers.”
The Franklin Sustainability Project for environmental care, which was led by the association, won the prestigious Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Award in 2000.
A gala dinner in September to celebrate the association’s centenary attracted 580 members and industry representatives, where old agricultural machinery and photographs were on display.
Pravin says the centenary has also been celebrated with road signage, banners in Pukekohe’s main streets and local events including sponsorship of the upcoming Pukekohe Santa Parade.
“One of the highlights is the video we compiled with local growers talking about their experiences of growing today and in years gone by.
“We’re still deciding how we’re going to use the video, but it was great for those at the gala to be able to see it,” says Pravin.