STALL CRAWL

WESTERN BAY OF PLENTY

Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

We cel­e­brate the tra­di­tion of the Kiwi hon­esty box

We cel­e­brate buy­ing fresh pro­duce right at the farm gate, and find that the tra­di­tion of the Kiwi hon­esty box lives on.

THERE’S A WEE SEC­TION of road north of Tauranga, be­tween snip­pets of sea, hills and farm­land, that has some hid­den gems dis­persed around its sideroads.

Pro­duce-laden stalls are just out of sight, but they’re there. Some, north of Katikati, are a bit more con­spic­u­ous.

One such gem has been there for close to 40 years, sim­ply called The Avocado Place. As well as its epony­mous fruit, there are toma­toes, cab­bages, onions, or­anges, sil­ver­beet, pas­sion­fruit – what­ever is in sea­son. Like many stalls around them, or up and down the ven­tri­cles of the coun­try, they stock the fresh­est pro­duce you can find.

Fiona Heays, who has been look­ing af­ter the spot for the past 17 years, says it had al­ready been go­ing for close to 20 years be­fore she and her hus­band took over. The ma­jor­ity of the pro­duce on the stall comes from their own plot of land, and what they can’t pro­vide comes from the Tauranga Farm­ers’ Mar­ket. “We do buy in things, I grow a lot of it and we do sell some stuff for other peo­ple,” she says.

It was orig­i­nally on the side of the road, off State High­way 2 to­wards Waihi Beach, be­fore they moved it onto the main road in Novem­ber last year. The Avocado Place has seen an up­grade, with multi-coloured polka dots sprayed across the side of the stall and some bunt­ing sewn by Heays’ mother.

How­ever, the hon­esty box fixed to the stall is some­times stolen; it was pil­fered in March this year. There’s a bit of a com­mu­nity around the stall-hold­ers who alert each other to dis­hon­est passers-by. “It’s rare, and hope­fully we’ll catch them. And once we get some­thing like that in the pa­per, it slows down.”

Faye Mcdougall lives just down the road from The Avocado Place, and has her own stall.

“To be hon­est, we get stolen from ev­ery sin­gle day. But you’ve got to take losses as well,” she says.

It’s a re­al­ity of the stall game that not ev­ery­one is hon­est and some might try to get away with the box. Most drop in a few less coins than they should, or noth­ing at all. The stalls have cam­eras now, and the stall-hold­ers name and shame the cul­prits. In the main, how­ever, both Mcdougall and Heays have hon­est and loyal cus­tomers.

“We get Christ­mas cards at Christ­mas time. The lo­cals are buy­ing from us all the time, it’s great,” Mcdougall says.

Her stall sits in the front of her prop­erty, Barview Or­chard, lov­ingly looked af­ter by her­self and her fa­ther for the past two years. When she took over the or­chard, with her hus­band and fa­ther, the trees were in dis­re­pair and there was plenty of work to be done. But there was fruit.

“We put fruit in the stall as soon as we got there,” she says.

They tended their gar­den, which is now as pro­duc­tive as the trees, and she started us­ing her granny’s pick­ling recipes. They sell just about ev­ery­thing they grow from the trees and their coveted gar­den. There are pota­toes, onions, cab­bages, broc­coli, cauliflow­ers; and then there’s their fruit. Mcdougall and her fa­ther are very prac­ti­cal when it comes to what they grow – no frilly non­sense. “If we can’t eat it, we don’t want it,” she laughs.

De­spite be­ing cheaper than the su­per­mar­ket – it’s about $2 per bag of any­thing – they’re still able to make some good money out of it, she says. That’s be­cause there’s also a plethora of chut­neys, jams and sauces that Mcdougall whips up, which are just as pop­u­lar as the fruit and veg­eta­bles.

“It’s a com­mit­ment … [Dad] said right from the start, if we do this we do it seven days.”

That means some­one is al­ways home to keep the shelves stocked and to make sure no one man­ages to jimmy the hon­esty box from its perch.

The fruit and veg­etable stalls prove im­por­tant to many or­chardists, ac­cord­ing to Jac­qui Knight, from the Katikati Avocado Food and Wine Fes­ti­val’s plan­ning com­mit­tee.

Many, like Barview Or­chard, are able to sell prod­ucts that don’t meet re­tail­ers’ tight spec­i­fi­ca­tions for what con­sti­tutes good fruit. Wind­fall, smaller and not-so-per­fect pro­duce can be sold, and it’s ar­guably fresher than what peo­ple are get­ting in the cities.

“They’re a great ser­vice to the com­mu­nity. It’s good for grow­ers, for them to get rid of ex­cess sup­ply and it’s great for lo­cals or peo­ple just pass­ing through. You get to know the lo­ca­tions, but on most side roads or corners there would be a fruit stall of some de­scrip­tion.”

There’s a good va­ri­ety too, though some­times gnarly, small or with a few blem­ishes. One thing you can count on how­ever: it’s fresh.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT Barview Or­chard ap­ples; CCTV at The Avocado Place; some stalls call for koha in­stead of fixed prices; some of Barview’s $2-a-bag pro­duce: the sign for Barview; The Avocado Place’s stall OP­PO­SITE Slightly im­per­fect pas­sion­fruit for sale

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