A Kakanui plot famed for its rich red tomatoes is now growing purple produce.
The former Riverview Growers site near the one-lane bridge changed hands in February last year. It’s the place where Alan and Jane Naish developed the famous Supertom grafted tomato plant back in 1965.
Brian and Margaret Buschl bought both the business and the trade name in 1996, continuing to grow thousands of tomato plants and employing up to 12 staff in the peak season to work in 11 greenhouses.
When the Buschls sold up, Gary and Jo Story took over the premises. They have been in North Otago for 17 and a-half years and were keen to live by the sea.
Mr Story grew up at Foxton Beach, at the mouth of the Manawatu River on the North Island’s west coast. He is now a full-time paramedic at St John Ambulance in Oamaru.
The Storys have been dabbling in horticulture mostly as a hobby so far. They figured that if their neighbours were already growing tomatoes, they would try something different so they were not in competition.
Their goal was to sell fresh produce at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market and at their gate.
“We’re keeping everything as natural as we can,” Mr Story said. “We’re using organic sprays and using seaweed to make our own fertiliser.”
There was a plentiful supply of raw ingredients nearby, and neighbours were delivering horse manure from their paddocks.
The Storys grew eggplants that “went reasonably well” last summer, although they could have done with more horse manure, Mr Story said.
They grew watermelons in a glasshouse, some weighing more than 5kg.
“We were quite happy with the crop.”
The variety’s apricot-coloured flesh may have looked unripe but tasted sweeter than its brighter counterparts.
The dark purple passionfruit they planted in a glasshouse last Christmas have grown phenomenally quickly and were now setting fruit, but Mr Story was not sure if it would “hold on over winter”.
They have also planted 30 tamarillo trees in greenhouses and hope they will have fruit this Christmas.
Cape gooseberries are another unusual fruit that “took off” as soon as they were planted at Kakanui.
Mrs Story plans to grow flowers, including lilies and alstroemerias.
“We’ll build it up over the next few years,” Mr Story said.
They have begun to pull down the oldest of the glasshouses, which were past their prime. The couple was investigating the best way to recycle the materials.