Berry farm becomes local produce hub

Kaye McArthur at McArthur’s Berry Farm, which will be reopening soon with fresh produce from...
Kaye McArthur at McArthur’s Berry Farm, which will be reopening soon with fresh produce from around the region. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
It has taken 50 years but the Taieri Plain finally has a central grower hub as a new home for fresh Otago produce.

On the face of it, the McArthurs Berry Farm, a popular summer stop for locals and tourists alongside the Outram-Mosgiel highway near Outram, will not have changed much when it reopens on December 1.

But there will be more choice for those who want fresh produce - pip and stone fruit and honey from Roxburgh, hazelnuts from Momona and locally grown fruit, berries and seasonal vegetables.

What you will not find are avocados, kiwifruit or feijoas from up north.

A condition of council consent for the hub and a new attached 200sqm residence is that there will be no "non-locally grown" products on site.

East Taieri horticulturalists Steve and Kaye McArthur believe their retail shop provides the "obvious solution" to smaller Otago growers who have produce to sell but not enough for commercial sellers or the Otago Farmers Market in Dunedin.

"We get thousands of local and visiting customers, so we would effectively be a conduit for other local farmers, providing an outlet, staff, retail space and storage" Ms McArthur said.

The focus would remain on fresh produce and frozen berries and there were no plans to add on perishable goods such as meat or dairy.

The McArthurs sold most of their produce through their own shop and this year pulled out of a relationship with Foodstuffs.

"We like to ensure the quality and guarantee the freshness of our produce - once we send to a supermarket we lose control of that," she said.

In developing the concept, the McArthurs generally followed the principles of the Good Food Dunedin Alliance in creating a local food hub, with the objective of promoting a more resilient food economy for Dunedin and Otago generally.

"It's not a unique idea but it presents economic opportunities, not only for local growers but also in encouraging people to know where their food comes from."

Ms McArthur was quick to add that real fruit ice cream would still be available.

"We only offer three flavours but it's a major drawcard. I think there'd be a revolt if we changed that," she said, laughing.

Plans for the site include a new residence for the McArthurs, built on to the existing shop.

"This will let us take hands-on control of the bigger business and also help us manage our stock with better on-site security."

The 2ha farm has been the main source for raspberries, strawberries, currants, gooseberries and boysenberries in the area for the past 50 years.

The stall was built by Mr McArthur's father Ken, in 1976.

Steve and Kaye McArthur have owned it for the past 17 years.

Add a Comment