I have now been in New Zealand for just over three months and it has been an incredible journey. Interning for the Bookers on their veggie farm has been very simplistic, but doing so in a foreign country has made it incredible. The height of summer is fast approaching, which has been an extremely odd phenomenon for me, since it has been below freezing back at home in the United States. On the farm, we are currently picking: asparagus, strawberries, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel, spinach, onions (red and white), spring onions, zucchini, beetroot, and radishes. We also have several things growing in the paddock such as: corn, tomatoes, melons, eggplant, capsicums, summer squash, hops, pumpkins, yams, and brussel sprouts. So far, this experience has proven to be much of the same as at home in the United States on my veggie farm in the sense that it has been a completely hands-on job with little intervention from machinery. We may use tractors to hoe up the soil, spread manure, create beds, and disperse spray, but other than that we use our hands entirely from planting the seedling to harvesting its fruit.
This time of year, much of the labor goes into keeping the irrigation flowing, especially for the paddock of hydroponic strawberries. It is a collective responsibility to make sure everything that runs on drip tape is given a chance to run off of the pump during a heat spell, and to make sure that the mobile sprinkler head is constantly running somewhere in a paddock that needs water. This is a similar situation to home, since this would be the middle of June when we can spend entire days laying out irrigation pipe for tomatoes and corn so that they survive a heat spell. One unique method used on this farm that I have not seen at home is utilizing the plants that have gone by as food for cattle. Rather than completely turn over the plants, my host lets his four beef cattle run through and eat up anything left over before the rotary hoe comes through. We also rotate the sheep through the paddocks to eat up any grass to keep it short, which proves very handy in the hydroponic strawberry paddock when employees are walking through it to pick.
Another similarity to back home is when the weather gets hot; the vegetable business gets very busy. We go to the same seven farmers markets all year round, but this is the time of year when extra staff is needed at the markets. My host, Cam Booker, is going to be having his second annual Sefton Christmas Harvest Market, which has proven to be the biggest event in the town of Sefton. Upwards of a thousand people came last year, but this year we hope to have even more since we are doubling the amount of produce available along with upwards of 40 other stores all assembled in one of our empty paddocks. Since we have the market right here on the farm, we get to have the luxury of providing pick-your-own peas and spuds, since all of us will be busy picking carrots and strawberries to keep our store stocked.
Culturally, I have grown to be very attached to New Zealand. I often enjoy spending my weekends just cruising around the main roads enjoying the scenery and taking time to stop by at local cafes for coffee. I’m also being well taken care of by my host family and my coworkers such as having someone to have beers with after work and having a gym buddy. Though I am spending the holidays mostly at home around Sefton, I plan to take a few days off for my birthday around mid-January to venture down to Queenstown to go tramping and bungee jumping. The beauty of New Zealand is how there’s so much to do everywhere you go. It’s never too difficult to travel if you have something specific in mind that you want to do since the country is so small.