Growers’ home deliveries ‘through the roof’

Loading up . . . The team at Grown, of Sefton, are busy packing up boxes of vegetables for home...
Loading up . . . The team at Grown, of Sefton, are busy packing up boxes of vegetables for home deliveries. Photo: Cam Booker
Farmers' markets have closed, but business is booming for one North Canterbury vegetable grower.

Sefton grower Cam Booker’s home delivery service had “gone through the roof” since the Covid-19 lockdown was announced last month.

“Our business got turned upside down. We can't sell anything at farmers’ markets at the moment because they're not classified as essential, but we are incredibly fortunate that we were already doing online deliveries.”

But Mr Booker said there was a nervous few days after the lockdown was announced, as it was unclear what trading would be allowed.

“We drop and go, so it's contactless. We just leave it on the doorstep and everything is paid online, so nothing had to change.

“But we were pretty nervous for a while, so we were pretty relieved when the confirmation from MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] came through.”

Before the lockdown his business, Grown, was supplying 60 boxes a week, but that had grown to 350.

There were a few regulations to meet in the new environment, including staff wearing face masks and gloves when handling food and ensuring the shed was clean and sanitised.

“Ironically enough we had to write ourselves a letter and carry that with us,” he said.

But Mr Booker said he was aware how lucky he is, with other growers and producers who sell at farmers’ markets, or supplied to independent produce shops, restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets having to compost their crop.

Horticulture New Zealand estimated that 30% of fresh produce went to independent shops and farmers' markets, which “takes the pressure off the supermarkets”, Mr Booker said.

The Grown team normally harvested on Wednesday and packed the boxes on Thursday morning for delivery, but now the harvesting began on Monday.

“It's definitely harder. I spend [a lot] of time answering inquiries. Some things have got a lot more complicated and there's a huge amount of administrative time checking ... because there's a much greater chance of making an error.’’

“When selling at farmers' markets you take what is ready and if you sell out, then you sell out.”

To ensure boxes were filled to order, he was calling on local grower mates when needed.

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