Sex and veg­etable Vi­a­gra

The seven fi­nal­ists in the Young Veg­etable Grower of the Year Com­pe­ti­tion certainly gave the judges plenty to think about in their speeches at the awards din­ner.

NZ Grower - - Food Security - By Glenys Chris­tian

Their topic: How can we cel­e­brate veg­eta­bles more as an in­dus­try and as in­di­vid­u­als? For­mer Pukekohe Veg­etable Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (PVGA) chair­man, Bharat Ji­van, said in pre­sent­ing the award that the au­di­ence of 200 had heard seven thought-pro­vok­ing and en­ter­tain­ing speeches.

First up, 29-year-old Shaun Reynolds from Pukekohe fam­ily com­pany, T A Reynolds, named an ex­ten­sive range of veg­eta­bles he said had been a big part of his life growing up.

“They ap­peared on ev­ery din­ner plate. They’re an amaz­ing food group and should be cel­e­brated more.” Chil­dren needed to be taught to grow veg­eta­bles to give them a sense of ac­com­plish­ment and the education op­por­tu­ni­ties this opened up were end­less, such as in­for­ma­tion about where dif­fer­ent veg­eta­bles were planted and har­vested.

“Get­ting kids ex­cited will help them cel­e­brate veg­eta­bles and the vi­tal role they play in health. The 5 plus veg­eta­bles a day ini­tia­tive was a good one.

“But there’s no rea­son why we shouldn’t cel­e­brate veg­eta­bles by eat­ing more of them. I have to say it – Mum was right. Veg­eta­bles are choles­terol-free and low in fats.” While technology could now help in im­prov­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of veg­eta­bles as an in­dus­try, much of the re­spon­si­bil­ity still came back to grow­ers.

“Do you teach oth­ers about the ben­e­fits of veg­eta­bles?” he asked grow­ers.

“With a few changes we can re­ally cel­e­brate them.”

The sec­ond con­tes­tant to speak was Han­nah Lan­g­ley, 28, who works for Can­ter­bury com­pany GROWN as a field as­sis­tant and mar­ket stall man­ager. She sug­gested that a birthday should be cre­ated for veg­eta­bles to cel­e­brate their many ben­e­fits.

“Let’s get real. What sells is sex. There, I said it.”

She then ran through a list of pro­duce con­tain­ing what she de­scribed as “veg­etable vi­a­gra”. Some con­tained chem­i­cals proven to boost li­bido and testos­terone.

“Let’s hope they’re not in our meals.”

Cap­sicums con­tained en­dor­phins which acted like a nat­u­ral painkiller, as well as “mak­ing things a lit­tle bit hot­ter in the sack”, while rocket could block some en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards.

“But as al­ways con­sult your health­care provider.”

Austin Singh, the youngest con­tes­tant at just 16, is a crop man­ager at Pukekohe com­pany Pure­wai Grow­ers. While he didn’t meet the age entry re­quire­ments for the com­pe­ti­tion, the or­gan­is­ers said due to his en­thu­si­asm for the in­dus­try they wanted to give him the chance to com­pete.

“Watch this space, he will be a top con­tender for fu­ture com­pe­ti­tions,” said MC and for­mer Young Grower of the Year, Hamish Gates.

Their trust was not mis­placed. Austin said the next gen­er­a­tion would have to deal with prob­lems such as obe­sity caused by man­u­fac­tured food like ham­burg­ers. But the ben­e­fits of eat­ing veg­eta­bles could be shown through com­pe­ti­tions, gift bas­kets and chef pro­mo­tions lead­ing to higher sales and profits for grow­ers.

“Com­mu­nity gar­dens could be set up for peo­ple who can’t af­ford to buy veg­eta­bles.” Re­search from the Univer­sity of Otago had shown that in two weeks mood im­prove­ments could be shown in peo­ple who in­creased their in­take of fruit and veg­eta­bles.

Robert Jones, 26, has worked as ir­ri­ga­tion man­ager for Suther­land pro­duce at Bom­bay for the last six years.

He de­scribed veg­eta­bles as pre­mium anti-can­cer and an­tidis­ease su­per­foods.

“We should all be ex­tremely proud of what we do,” he told grow­ers.

“One day a year we should open our doors to the pub­lic to let them see what we are growing and se­lect what veg­eta­bles they want to take home. If it rains we could move into pack­ing sheds so vis­i­tors could see how we op­er­ate in rain, hail and shine.”

This field-to-fork ini­tia­tive would help show young peo­ple where their food came from and get them more in­volved in that process. Help from the gov­ern­ment was also needed to stop veg­etable growing land be­ing taken for new hous­ing de­vel­op­ments.>

“We need to show what’s healthy and it’s not take­aways,” he said.

“Let’s get ev­ery­one on board and or­gan­ise these field days.”

Chris Cowie, 26, who has been in the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try for more than six years and is an as­sis­tant grower for T&G cov­ered crops in Re­poroa, said he wanted to take the op­por­tu­nity to present an idea which would take money.

“We need to build a time ma­chine, go back in time and con­vince God to make veg­eta­bles taste like cho­co­late,” he said.

Milky Bar cho­co­late and MacDon­alds at­tracted chil­dren with ad­ver­tis­ing. “We need to get kids to eat veg­eta­bles and we will have them for life,” he said.

“That’s a great way to cel­e­brate veg­eta­bles. We also need to be more force­ful as grow­ers. But I’m not sug­gest­ing we throw toma­toes at gov­ern­ment min­is­ters.”

What he was think­ing of was more along the lines of rolling Jaf­fas down Dunedin’s steep­est street, he said.

“We could have a com­pe­ti­tion to grow the big­gest pump­kin, hol­low the in­te­rior out and have a race down the Waikato River.”

Penny Platt de­vel­oped her pas­sion for food pro­duc­tion through work­ing in com­mu­nity gar­dens while at univer­sity, and for the last five years has been es­tab­lish­ing her own or­ganic mar­ket gar­den at Lin­coln, out­side Christchurch. It now em­ploys five staff, and the veg­eta­bles pro­duced are sold through whole­salers and also to restau­rants. She said she’d found that the veg­etable in­dus­try was more about dis­tri­bu­tion than growing.

“There’s a di­vide be­tween us and our cus­tomers and what they are pay­ing for is the lo­gis­tics,” she said.

There was a lot of waste in veg­etable pro­duc­tion and of­ten high mark-ups.

“In the su­per­mar­ket I’m not proud of our prod­uct,” she said.

But it was not pos­si­ble for many peo­ple in ur­ban cen­tres to grow their own veg­eta­bles, par­tic­u­larly if they were renting.

“We need to give a sense of con­nec­tion with what it means to be a veg­etable grower,” she said.

“We sell at farm­ers’ mar­kets and peo­ple en­joy talk­ing to the pro­ducer about what’s in sea­son and know­ing they are get­ting a fair price for their crops. That gives me a sense of pride in what we’re do­ing and that brand is some­thing we can sell.

“I ask you how you can do that through dif­fer­ent chan­nels?”

Scott Wilcox, 23, an as­sis­tant in the car­rot growing pro­gramme with A S Wilcox, asked whether con­sumers cel­e­brated veg­eta­bles enough.

“They let a piece of meat dic­tate the veg­eta­bles they eat,” he said.

“We need to com­mu­ni­cate the veg­etable story in a bet­ter way and make them the hero of the meal.”

Veg­etable grow­ers needed to reach out to other peo­ple who shared their pas­sion for their crop to pro­mote the story of how veg­eta­bles got on to

“We need to com­mu­ni­cate the veg­etable story in a bet­ter way and make them the hero of the meal.”

su­per­mar­ket shelves. Us­ing chefs and so­cial me­dia meant this in­for­ma­tion could be told to a wide au­di­ence.

“These sto­ries need to have good, hon­est bones such as fea­tur­ing fam­i­lies which have been in­volved in veg­etable growing for gen­er­a­tions,” he said.

“There are char­ac­ters who grow and they give char­ac­ter to the in­dus­try.”

Scott said veg­eta­bles were God’s gift to mankind.

“We need to live the story,” he said.

“We should treat veg­eta­bles as new­born ba­bies, as the heroes they are be­cause if we don’t who will”?

Scott was named as win­ner of the best speech award spon­sored by Pota­toes NZ. Shaun Reynolds took out the Bal­lance Farm Nu­tri­ents prac­ti­cal award and was later named sec­ond run­ner-up. Chris Cowie won the T&G busi­ness award and took run­ner-up po­si­tion while Scott was called back to ac­cept the Young Veg­etable Grower of the Year tro­phy. Chief judge, Her­man van der Gu­lik, area sales man­ager for Enza Zaden, said the con­tes­tants had given their all and were all win­ners.

“I can see we have a strong fu­ture.” The com­pe­ti­tion was go­ing from strength to strength with more en­trants than last year.

“It’s the base to drive our in­dus­try,” he said.

“We’ve got to cel­e­brate the in­dus­try in a num­ber of di­verse ways and this is just one of them.”

The other judges in­cluded last year’s Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist of the Year, An­drew Hutchin­son, who said the time had gone quickly since his win. And he’s found con­nec­tions he made with other con­tes­tants were one of the most im­por­tant ben­e­fits.

“We’re all fac­ing the same is­sues,” he said.

“And we’re bet­ter off learn­ing from each other than be­ing on our own.” As part of his award pack­age he in­tends to travel to the United King­dom, Ire­land, Spain, France and the Nether­lands for three months next year, look­ing at a va­ri­ety of veg­etable growing op­er­a­tions.

The third judge was com­pe­ti­tion or­gan­iser, Kirsty de Jong, from Hort NZ with a for­mer Young Veg­etable Grower of the Year, Brett Parker, time­keeper for the speeches.

Ear­lier Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand pres­i­dent, Julian Raine, told grow­ers the com­pe­ti­tion stretched young peo­ple’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties while pro­longed rainy weather last year and ear­lier this year had tested grow­ers.

“Prices firmed up and maybe this is a taste of what we might see if we don’t stop houses, tar­mac and con­crete swal­low­ing up good growing land.” The num­ber of con­tes­tants in the com­pe­ti­tion acted as a barom­e­ter of the in­dus­try’s health, he be­lieved. “Tonight it looks good but things can change and change quickly. We need to keep in­vest­ing in peo­ple be­cause with­out them we are miss­ing an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent in our in­dus­try.”

◀ Photo credit:Jo Boyd, River­lea Pho­tog­ra­phy. ◀ Chris Cowie ◀ Penny Platt

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