In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005

Doctor's orders

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From:       Stuart
Subject:   Doctor's orders
  Date:         2nd March 2005
     Okahune, Central Plateau, North Island, New Zealand


"This place is a ghost town now," said the old man, stooping by the picnic table we'd turned into an office. "Lived in the region all my life," he continued "and here in Raehiti since '58. Seen it all, volcano erupting, businesses folding, shops closing, people leaving. Everything moved to Okahune, the Carrot Capital. We're dying here, capital of nothing." He adjusted his baseball cap to shield his eyes from the morning sun and wiped his chin with his sleeve. "Sorry, had a stroke in '90, that's why I dribble like this. Had to give up work and everything. I'm 77. Would love to work but there's nothing going here." He paused for a moment. "Wife still works though. 73 she is. And been picking sprouts for 33 years… at the sprout place on the road to Okahune. You'll see it when you pass, a bright tin shed. You should call in and say hello. Reckon you'd be welcome." Then, as quickly as he appeared, he turned and plodded off, "Good luck to you and enjoy your trip."

With the interruption over, Kirstie went back to work, reviewing emails arriving on the laptop in front of us. "My sister says hi, there's one about renting a recumbent, a couple of no go's about canoeing, oh, and the results of my blood test….. says I'm a little iron deficient… need to eat more red meat and greens. Perhaps we should call in at the sprout farm after all."

A large refrigerated 'Turners and Growers' truck turned up the gravel drive, throwing up clouds of dust on its way to the farm buildings. We followed it a safe distance behind, looking for signs of sprouts and hoping we were in the right place. At the end of the drive the truck was parked next to huge wooden crates outside a shiny tin shed. The office and coffee cups on the table inside were empty. Kirstie ventured inside the damp shed, past idle machinery and stacks of green plastic packing crates, "Well, there's an earthy smell… it could be sprouts." She went further in, cautiously, until she was out of sight. "Yes, yes," she called back excitedly, "This must be it, there's four sprouts by the door. Hello, hello, is there anyone there? Hellooo." A woman appeared from the direction of the farmhouse, "Are you the sprout people?" asked Kirstie. The lady smiled, "Yes, that's us. I'm Steph and that's my husband Bruce." She pointed to a stocky man approaching on a fork lift truck. Bruce and Steph are the owner managers of Snow Country Gardens, a sprout and parsnip growing business they bought together five years ago.

Stuart, Bruce and Steph deep in serious sprout talk

"Being a sprout farmer wasn't exactly a childhood dream," said Bruce grinning as he gave us the low down on the sprout business, "but when this opportunity came up, it was too good to turn down. We've spent five years growing the business, investing in new machinery, a refrigeration plant and staff training to produce sprouts of the highest quality." With all that and the excellent volcanic soil, you'd think they had it cracked. But the challenge they face is a human one; convincing Kiwi's to give sprouts a chance. As Bruce put it, "There's a whole generation of Kiwi's my age who are sprout haters. We were force fed sprouts the size of your fist. They packed a real bitter punch. I loathed them and so did most of my mates. It's a hard market to crack." But Bruce and Steph are not quitters. From their innocuous premises just a few miles from the Carrot Capital, they are planning their own green revolution; their mission- to breed a whole new generation of sprout lovers with their secret little weapon. "We've introduced new smaller sweeter varieties and hand pick for the highest quality. We think people will change their mind when they taste them."

Steph opened the giant insulated door and took us into their giant refrigerated store. Freezing mist rushed out to reveal the same huge wooden crates we had seen outside. But these ones were full…… of sprouts. "Holds about 500kg, that does," she says. "Our team of ten fill that in less than an hour. Peak season we can fill ten a day." I did the maths, working out that they produce about a million sprouts a month, enough to give every Kiwi a fresh sprout each month. There's no doubting these people are serious about their mission. Who knows this place could be just what Raehiti needs to aid it's regeneration. That, and a giant green concrete sprout on the highway just outside of town.

Who needs an iron supplement with sprouts like these?

Tour over, we stepped outside into the warm afternoon air. Steph held out a little plastic box, "Here, take these to try and see what you think." Kirstie reached out and grabbed the box, "Thanks very much " she said putting them in her bar bag. We thanked the Sprout King and Queen for their time and headed off to the Carrot Capital .

Why is there a big carrot here Dad?

"They're good aren't they?" I said tucking into a sprout at dinner. "Yuk. Don't like them," said Matthew pushing his two to the side of his plate. "Spouts stupid and filthy," said Cameron pushing his off the table. "Just what the doctor ordered," said Kirstie collecting up Matthew's and Cameron's, "I reckon these people might be onto something."



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