Running and maintaining a farm is never easy, it requires patience, dedication and passion. Recently I had the unique opportunity to visit and explore a herbal farm, courtesy of David and Gillian Ng in Whenuapai, about half an hour's drive north of Auckland CBD. Called the Herb Patch and located at 18 Brigham Creek Road in Waitakere City, it also offers organic produce, culinary spices and vegetables for distribution to greengrocers, restaurants and wholesalers.
Herbs can be grown on the ground or above on raised table platforms. The key issues facing herb farmers are ensuring consistent quality, having timely irrigation watering and protecting the relatively delicate produce from predators like rabbits and the pukeko bird (native to New Zealand). The Herb Patch grows a diverse range of plant varieties - alfafa, angelica, basil, bay leaf, fenugreek, celery, chives, dill, elderflower, fennel, lavender, lemon myrtle, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and more. A herbal farm is so much cleaner as it concentrates on flora.
David introduced me and my group to edible flowers (orange coloured ones above) and the importance of effective layout and design of pumps, pipes and automated watering. (images below). Winter offers a different set of challenges and opportunities compared to the warmer months.
Cut off tree stumps (above) remind me of windbreakers, essential on a flat, rather open topography. More delicate specimens require roof netting (below) and protective seedling ground covers. Efficient planning, good process mapping, gestation periods and timing requirements are critical to a successful farm operation anyway, especially in a country with rather more expensive labour costs. Above it all, both David and Gillian enjoy the surrounding atmosphere despite the daily hard work and attention the farm requires. I was surprised that their nearest shopping centre was only a fifteen minute drive away at the most. The couple has done a lot to restore and improve the state of the farm since they took over from the previous owners.