If you mix a passion for horticulture with a healthy dose of Kiwi ingenuity, a big spoonful of family values and a splash of entrepreneurship, you’d likely find the outcome would look something like Six Toed Fox Organics.
The family market garden located in Omanawa Falls is the culmination of Brad Harding’s passion for horticulture and a family desire to produce quality, ethical and local food.
They produce enough fruit and veg to have an online subscription box and webstore for people looking to buy fresh, organic produce.
But what’s with the name? Well, it’s all about family values, Kiwi ingenuity and the mahi the family put in to make their business work. “With our son Fox, I had this awful pregnancy brain fog for about nine months,” says Rachel Yeats, whose family-of-five with Brad is completed with children Gryphon and Juno.
“Then, when he was three days old, I remember sitting on the couch feeding him and looking at him; and everything just clicked.
“Six months later, with a lot of business planning, we were off. I always sort of felt like Fox had been the catalyst and then because he was so little and there were the two of us with this bootstrap business. We did a crowdfunding campaign and raised $10,000.
“That was how we started, that was all the money we had; $10,000 from other people. Fox just got dragged around with us everywhere – I was a working mama with a baby on my back, I’d go and do deliveries and I’d have him on one hip and a basket of veges on the other.
“We did farmers’ markets; I used to get all these cooing from old ladies, he’d need a feed and I’d still be serving and feeding.
Fox was born with six toes on one foot, which Rachel and Brad didn’t realise until he was about three days old. “He’s just a really quirky little character. We just felt it was a cool name to celebrate a cool thing.” “He calls it his farm now,” says Brad.
“It was just about connecting our family with the land. And I really like it,” says Rachel.
The couple say they’ve seen first-hand what connecting to and looking after the land can do. There were a few fruit trees that had rumours surrounding them when they moved on to the property.
“The neighbours told us when we moved on that they’d never seen them fruiting so we should just go ahead and chop them down,” says Rachel.
“We decided we’d give them a year of TLC and we got Frank, our tree guy, on to it. He poured love all over them and then the harvest we got last year from the nashi and apple trees was just phenomenal.”
“We got 180kg of nashi from one tree,” says Brad. “And that was just the weight of the strip-picking, not what we ate as we went or those that fell on the ground.”
The couple say Six Toed Fox is all about taking care, providing love and working with the land – not just working the land for their own benefit. Brad says there’s not many people doing what they’re doing.
“It’s quite rare to find a mixed vegetable farm. You usually find a carrot grower or a broccoli grower but not so many mixed vegetables.”
“That’s one of the powers in our system is the huge diversity in what we have; we always have something to harvest and the way that they work together means we’re doing a good job of our integrated pest management,” says Rachel.
“We grow most of the things we put in our boxes right here. We do supplement them with other things because we do have crop failures or don’t anticipate the demand and don’t plant enough but the majority of the boxes are 75 per cent our stuff and through the summer it’s definitely 100 per cent our stuff.”
And it’s a lot of work – looking at the property you’d almost think it had always been that way. Symmetrical beds, perfectly-spaced walkways, greenhouses for small and warm-loving plants...it looks so organised and natural. Very organic. Six Toed Fox is a fully certified organic property with Organic Farm NZ.
Rachel says organics has an unusual market in New Zealand – one the team at Six Toed Fox is hoping to change. “There’s a weird perception of organic farming in NZ and that can be really difficult.
“In NZ the perception seems to be more that it’s just expensive food. We wish it could be cheaper but we don’t have that scale to be able to do things cheaper – and I don’t see that it’s the responsibility of the growers to make cheap food when you’re actually having the real cost of food.”
For out more about Six Toed Fox Organics at: www.sixtoedfoxorganics.co.nz