14 April 2020
The Clarke family of Woodhaven Gardens - Commercial Vegetable Production - are the 2020 Regional Supreme Winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Growing 23 different vegetables, this family-run commercial growing operation is unique for its size and range of crops. It takes a collaborative, science-led approach to farming that balances conservation with commercial success and has significantly reduced its environmental impact in recent years.
Woodhaven Gardens entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to show other growers how working with partners has helped them on their journey to environmental sustainability.
The property was originally established in 1978 as a lifestyle choice for Eric Clarke and his son John, however a passion was soon ignited to produce the best possible produce. In addition to now growing 23 different types of vegetable, Woodhaven grows maize and ryegrass to improve soil health and reduce nutrient losses. It annually sells 27 million individual vegetable units which is between 7 and 10% of the national supply. It employs about 250 staff and contributes between $30–35mil to the country’s annual GDP.
In recent years, Woodhaven Gardens has invested significantly in understanding and improving its environmental impacts and benefits. It has partnered with other businesses and Massey University to assist in this process, plus has connected with numerous community environmental groups and growers. This has led to a science-led approach in partnership with community stakeholders – an approach that has been shared with Horticulture NZ and is being rolled out to other growers in the region. The judges praised Woodhaven Gardens for integrating new technology into their business that has helped them reduce nutrient output.
The owners and directors view the farm holistically, meaning they farm not just for themselves but also to enrich the lives of their staff, community, local Iwi and environment. The development of the property is driven by this purpose and the judges were impressed with how Woodhaven proactively engages with its community.