Farmers market boon for grower

Steve McArthur (42) picks raspberries at his Outram berry farm. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Steve McArthur (42) picks raspberries at his Outram berry farm. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The Otago Farmers Market has made a big difference to Steve McArthur's Outram horticulture business.

The McArthur's Berry Farm has been in the family for more than 40 years, but there have been some significant changes since Mr McArthur bought out his father, Ken McArthur, 12 years ago.

Supermarkets were much more powerful these days, Mr McArthur said, and they had long since bypassed the previous Dunedin regional auction system-instead trucking huge quantities of fruit and vegetables in and out of Otago themselves.

That made it harder for smaller independent producers to survive and thrive.

Competing head-to-head with much bigger producers in Canterbury and elsewhere was difficult, he said.

But that's where the farmers market helped, he said.

It focuses on goods and services provided within Dunedin and Otago, and gives smaller local producers of fruit and vegetables an outlet throughout the year.

''It keeps you going. It keeps your cash flow going all year round.''

On his 12ha property he produces more vegetables than his father did- providing them in greater variety than previously, and almost year-round, rather than, as previously, simply for a few months of the year.

The farm has been selling some of its produce through the market since 2005. Raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, black and red currants and boysenberries are provided fresh from the farm, and are available frozen during winter.

Mr McArthur, who has an agricultural degree from Lincoln University, has to keep planting all year to keep regular crop supplies flowing.

And he has to think on his feet to counter unexpected challenges and take advantage of new opportunities.

A redeveloped farm stall on State Highway 87, close to the Taieri River Bridge, is open each year from the start of December until the end of April.

It offers an expanded range of produce, including a blend of ice cream and fruit.

The farmers market has not only helped him market some of his produce throughout the year, but has also enabled him to supply on a more boutique basis, without the need to generate the high volumes required for the supermarket trade.

The outcome had been a win-win situation for him and his customers, he said.

He gets a reasonable return, they pay a competitive price, and the fruit and vegetables are of good quality and tend to be a bit fresher-not having been trucked long distances to market.

He enjoys the close links he has formed with customers, who can discuss his produce with him.


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