Daryn, Louise and their two boys started their adventure in 2014 when they bought their little farm after shifting from Waiheke Island – home for nearly 17 years. They called it Salty River Farm because it sits on a tidal arm of the Kaipara Harbour. They were determined to make a living off it, especially when they were told it was too small to be viable, a bit under 50 acres.
They started breeding goats, marketing and selling the meat. As the business gained traction, the abattoir they were using closed and there was no other feasible option. They were disappointed, but picked themselves up and started on the next project – market gardening.
Today, they grow and sell year-round: beautiful lettuces, bagged lettuce mixes, coriander and dill; and during warmer months: zucchini, scallopini, squash, basil, thai basil, lebanese cucumbers, little tomatoes, beans and beetroot; and during cooler months: pakchoi, watercress, kale, coloured silverbeet, mustard, miners lettuce, mini cabbages, snap peas and rocket. “We want to grow and sell vegies the old-fashioned way: fresh, seasonal and without harmful chemicals. A simple idea, but it requires plenty of hard work, especially when you’re new to it” Daryn says.
They grow the lettuces and some of the herbs using Hydroponics, a method of growing plants out of the ground. Plants receive nutrients via water-based, mineral-rich solutions through an elevated garden bed. The couple choose to grow these in coconut coir and pumice – so after harvest any waste can be composted. It’s a sustainable alternative to traditional farming methods; hydroponic gardens use less water than traditional growing methods. In Daryn and Louise’s case, using filtered, recycled rainwater further reduces their impact on the environment.
Other crops are grown in raised beds in the no dig method, using a well balanced soil and no synthetic pesticides or fertilisers.
They supplement their produce in the farm shop with other NZ growers produce, providing a wider range of produce for their customers. "We're the first to admit we can't grow some things better than other growers - like big carrots from Ohakune, potatoes from Pukekohe or kumara from Dargaville, so we buy what we can't grow from other NZ growers."
They drive their produce to Matakana Village Farmers Market on Saturdays – and during the week for online order deliveries. Customers love having a connection to the farm. Locals arrive at the farm on pre-order pickup day and have a bit of a yarn. The farm isn't open for casual call-ins, but the family are planning to have farm open days in the future for customers to visit the farm, learn how the produce is grown, buy produce and meet some of the farm animals.
Old fashioned values are just as important off the farm as they are on it. For Salty River farm, this means a friendly face and helping hand. “We love our customers, so being personable and getting to know them is a really important part of our business, we get to know customers and enjoy their company each week. They’re part of our business - they’ve watched us grow and we’ve grown with them”.
Along the way, it has been a process of trial and error. “We’ve learnt from talking to people and reading, but nothing beats your own experience, so you just have to jump in and make a start, and we now enjoy sharing what we have learnt with others".
“Coming to the farm has changed our life in many ways. It has made us closer as a family, to appreciate the simple things in life, and has proven that with an open mind you can do a lot on a little farm”.
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