Thomas brings the best of Nepalese gardening traditions to Pukekohe, where he’s been a market gardener for 14 years.
“My family in Nepal grow rice, maize and millet. Their crops are a source of joy and pride for them,” he says.
“I’ve always wanted to carry on the tradition. For me it’s about producing good, clean food the natural way.”
Thomas is concerned that commercial pressure in New Zealand leads many growers to pursue high yield and high productivity – at a cost.
“But if we don’t put nasty chemicals into the food chain, they won’t come back and bite us.”
Thomas’s motto? Good clean food brings good health.
Sik Ho is the sole grower for Howan Gardens and has dedicated over 30 years to his passion. He grows a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables which includes a variety of Chinese greens, herbs and the famous salad packs.
Whilst Sik Ho grows and manages his garden alone during the week, his adult children come home in the weekend for the big harvest and to assist with sales.
The secret to the success of Sik Ho's produce lies in his philosophy: Grow nutritious produce to share with the wider community.
Since his whole family moved to a vegetarian lifestyle 18 years ago, they decided to grow spray-free because they could never share what they would not eat themselves!
While growing spray-free has its challenges, their customers have come to love their holey vegetables, exclaiming "they taste & look as they should!"
Chani is a boutique vegetable grower who knows how to get the best out of the rich volcanic soil in the rolling hills of Pukekohe.
He's been growing vegetables all of his working life. And after converting to spray-free growing eight years ago, he's never looked back.
What made him change to spray-free?
"Eight years ago, one of my regular customers had a grandchild who was sick with cancer", Chani says.
"He told me his story, and asked if my produce was organic.
"I said 'no - but I'll grow you some...'
"That was the turning point. I really committed to making sure it was healthy from then on".
Chani says the regular customer is now a friend (and his little moko is doing well).
It's lucky that Tahu from the Waikato is a naturally early riser. When the dawn breaks over the crystal-clear headwaters of the Te Waihou River near Putaruru, Tahu is already well into his daily watercress picking - a routine that he's followed for 30-odd years.
"The Blue Spring that I collect from is so clear that they collect bottled water there now for sale in the shops."
"Sixty percent of New Zealand's bottled water is sourced there. I've been told that it's the second-freshest water in New Zealand."
"When I started picking 30 years ago it was a local secret. I got permission from the local farmers to go and pick on their land. But now the secret is out!"
By the time the mist has cleared over the valley, Tahu has bags of the freshest cress ready for us to deliver to your door. Thanks Tahu!
Farming is a family affair for Mark, who's been growing spray-free produce for 13 years. With enough land to spread out on, Mark has the luxury of being able to leave your pumpkins to ripen on the vine. The whole family pitches in when it's time for the harvest. His nephew from Auckland drives up, and it's all hands to the vines - and the land. Growing spray-free is not without its challenges.
"This autumn the whole area is being hit by crickets and black beetles. They burrow into the ground and unfortunately, they really love to burrow into kumara, where they make little black holes."
"So we've been flat out trying to lift the whole crop before they get the chance to damage it".
Mark values transparency and welcomed the opportunity to let customers know what's going into his soil.
"In terms of fertiliser use, we lime quite heavily, which you need to do in this soil to get a good crop."
"Then we add a mix of 30% potash super with boron and salt".
"So there are no nasties. It's pretty similar to what you'd do at home - just on a larger scale!"