A truly mon­u­men­tal oc­ca­sion

When a cel­e­bra­tion has been 100 years in the mak­ing it’s sure to be one to be re­mem­bered.

NZ Grower - - Contents - By Glenys Chris­tian Pho­tos by Ivor Earp-Jones

Over 580 grow­ers, agri­cul­tural ser­vic­ing com­pany, su­per­mar­ket rep­re­sen­ta­tives and both lo­cal and na­tional politi­cians crowded into the Pukekohe In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion Hall on Septem­ber 21 to cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of the found­ing of the Pukekohe Veg­etable Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (PVGA).

Out­side there was an ar­ray of old agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery on show brought from grow­ers’ prop­er­ties around the area.

And in­side a num­ber of pan­els showed in words and pho­tos the his­tory of a num­ber of lo­cal grow­ing fam­i­lies. Ste­wart Howard from Tuakau cartage firm, Ter­ence Howard and Co, did the sign­writ­ing,and the in­ten­tion is that they will be dis­played at fu­ture func­tions as a legacy item.

The theme was re­peated in­side with images of grow­ing, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the Se­cond World War when Pukekohe was called on to sup­ply Amer­i­can troops in the Pa­cific, dis­played on the screen be­hind the stage. Small wooden trac­tors fea­tured in the ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions with guests given one to as­sem­ble them­selves later at home. A powhiri by lo­cal Maori rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ash­ley Brougham, paid trib­ute to their in­te­gral in­volve­ment in the lo­cal veg­etable grow­ing com­mu­nity. As well as a ko­rowai PVGA chair­man, Pravin Hari, was pre­sented with a carv­ing. Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies was Paul Flynn, bet­ter known as IZB ra­dio host Flynny, or in the Pukekohe area as the grand­son of former PVGA pres­i­dent and life mem­ber, John Flynn. He told the story of be­ing sent to do some plough­ing by his “gang gang” on a John Deere trac­tor, only to have the front left wheel fall off. He con­tacted his grand­fa­ther by RT only who said that was im­pos­si­ble. Then he came and saw the sit­u­a­tion for him­self. “That was when I re­alised maybe there was an­other ca­reer for me.” He proved that well with a warm up com­pe­ti­tion where he called some at­ten­dees up on stage and per­suaded them to howl, growl and re­peat the words Rot­tweiler, Rot­tweiler to much laugh­ter and ap­plause.

Next it was time for Pravin to speak. “It’s a truly mon­u­men­tal oc­ca­sion,” he said.

He said he felt three emo­tions; re­lief that ev­ery­one had turned up and looked great, grat­i­tude and pride. “With­out spon­sors a night like this wouldn’t be pos­si­ble,” he said.

He also thanked grow­ers for their dona­tions of pro­duce and those on the PVGA ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, many of whom helped or­gan­ise the event along with a range of other ac­tiv­i­ties mark­ing the cen­te­nary this year.

“The hard­work­ing ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee has truly made the as­so­ci­a­tion the tower of strength it is to­day,” he said.

“And I feel pride. To be elected chair­man in the cen­ten­nial year is truly amaz­ing.”

He then asked 10 of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s 11 life mem­bers who were present, to stand to be ap­plauded, say­ing with­out them the as­so­ci­a­tion wouldn’t be where it was.

A video was then played of lo­cal grow­ers talk­ing in­for­mally about grow­ing yes­ter­day and to­day and the Pukekohe area. Life mem­ber Lex Wil­cox re­mem­bered first meet­ing older Can­ter­bury grow­ers at na­tional meet­ings who he could see won­dered, “who were these whip­per-snap­pers?” An­other life mem­ber, Ian MacDougall, talked of the an­guish of find­ing of potato cyst ne­ma­tode (PCN) in the area.

“We weren’t able to walk on our prop­erty,” he said.

“We had to put plas­tic bags on our feet and wash and steam clean our ve­hi­cles.”

He now be­lieved there needed to be more ef­fort put into telling grow­ers’ sto­ries.>

He felt three emo­tions; re­lief that ev­ery­one had turned up and looked great, grat­i­tude and pride. PRAVIN HARI

“Town peo­ple don’t know where their veg­eta­bles come from.”

An­other more re­cent life mem­ber, Keith Val­labh, said he be­lieved a bet­ter story also needed to be told about the tech­nol­ogy grow­ers now used.

“We’ve come a long way.”

Former pres­i­dent, Gan­pat (Patch) Hari, re­mem­bered how proud he felt when he first was called on to do in­ter-row knif­ing on crops his fam­ily grew. “There’s a lot of pride in the com­mu­nity and it’s a high­light to see the next gen­er­a­tion com­ing on.” His nephew Pravin, talked of the pride he felt com­ing down Hob­son Street in Auck­land as a child and see­ing a queue of trucks like those of his fam­ily’s head­ing for the old auc­tion mar­ket. Howe Young said if grow­ers pre­sented qual­ity pro­duce there they knew they would get top price.

“There was a café at the mar­ket and ev­ery­one would talk to each other,” he said.

And a pump they had on their truck to wash it out once pro­duce was un­loaded came in very use­ful once when a neigh­bour’s house caught fire. “We helped put it out and they be­came life­long friends,” he said. PVGA com­mit­tee mem­ber, Si­mon Wil­cox, said hav­ing a num­ber of gen­er­a­tional busi­nesses in­volved meant there could be good dis­cus­sions and good de­ci­sions made.

HortNZ pres­i­dent Ju­lian Raine said it was great to be in Pukekohe to cel­e­brate the oc­ca­sion. And he par­tic­u­larly men­tioned Ber­na­dine Guilleux, re­cently elected to the HortNZ board.

“She’s one of yours,” he said.

“She’s the first true Pukekohe grower to sit on the board and the youngest di­rec­tor.”

He paid trib­ute to PVGA life mem­bers’ ded­i­ca­tion which along with their time, en­ergy and knowl­edge had moulded the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Work­ing as a team was re­quired to make progress but it was also great to have fun.

“There’s al­ways causes to fight,” he said.

He made a toast to past pres­i­dents and the next 100 years.

“Well done Pukekohe veg­etable grow­ers.” Labour MP, Anahila Kanon­gata’a Suisuiki, rep­re­sent­ing Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries, Damien O’Con­nor, said the hor­ti­cul­tural sec­tor was an im­por­tant one for the na­tional econ­omy but faced a num­ber of chal­lenges such as ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and ac­cess to wa­ter. She warned that pre­serv­ing highly pro­duc­tive soils such as those at Pukekohe might not be enough and grow­ers might need to look at pro­duc­ing more with less en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

She quoted a Ton­gan hymn which asked what was the use of a sin­gle drop of wa­ter? >

“There's a lot of pride in the com­mu­nity and it's a high­light to see the next gen­er­a­tion com­ing on.”

What was needed was to work to­gether.

Grant Robin­son, Count­down’s busi­ness man­ager, pro­duce, said the 100-year cel­e­bra­tion was quite an ac­com­plish­ment.

“That’s a long time to be feed­ing Auck­land and some­times the whole coun­try,” he said.

Dave Ste­wart, Food­stuffs North Is­lands’ gen­eral man­ager, mer­chan­dise, said the busi­ness was built on re­la­tion­ships and mu­tual suc­cess with “the fan­tas­tic grow­ing re­gion on Auck­land’s doorstep”.

Past pres­i­dent, Grant Ryan, then re­vealed how the PVGA had de­cided to give back to the in­dus­try, by es­tab­lish­ing an ed­u­ca­tion trust.

“De­vel­op­ing peo­ple is key to the fu­ture of the in­dus­try,” he said. “The next gen­er­a­tion is crit­i­cal in all our busi­nesses.”

They could be grow­ing crops in­doors or out­doors or driv­ing drones rather than trac­tors.

The ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee would de­velop the ve­hi­cle and fund­ing cri­te­ria for the ed­u­ca­tion trust and com­mu­ni­cate that back to the grow­ing com­mu­nity. And to kick start the fund­ing a paint­ing of a potato har­vest­ing scene with the Bom­bay Hills prom­i­nent in the back­ground was auc­tioned. It was painted by Pukekohe artist, 21-year –old Lo­gan Mof­fat, who ear­lier in the year be­came the youngest per­son to win the Adam Por­trai­ture Award.

Who bet­ter to take the bids than Jef­fery Turner, chair­man of J&P Turner. He said the cen­te­nary cel­e­brated “those who came with noth­ing, worked hard, ed­u­cated their kids and grew the in­dus­try we have to­day”.

The win­ning bid of $4000 was made by Pukekohe’s Yvonne Aarts, who said she and hus­band Gerry, who are former grow­ers, were very happy to con­trib­ute to the next gen­er­a­tion of grow­ers. It was matched by a sim­i­lar con­tri­bu­tion from the PVGA.

Then it was time for danc­ing, group photo shots, catch­ing up with friends from near and far as well as mak­ing new ones un­til well into the morn­ing.

Cel­e­bra­tions have con­tin­ued with a potato print­ing work­shop at the Pukekohe Li­brary dur­ing the school hol­i­days. And in early De­cem­ber the PVGA will have a big role to play in the Pukekohe Santa Pa­rade as well as LoneS­tar’s first ever Onion Fes­ti­val, be­ing held in the town the fol­low­ing week.

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