18 Mar 2016

The Fresh Grower

From Country Life, 9:39 pm on 18 March 2016

Allan Fong spent his teenage years getting up at five in the morning to cut vegetables on his parents' small market garden.

Then he would head off to school. The knife would be strapped to his belt again after the school bell had rung at three. There was work to be done in the weekend as well.

More than four decades later Allan still works that same patch of land on the outskirts of Pukekohe.

Those 5 hectares though have grown to 200 and now Allan and his brother Colin grow 20 lines of green leafy vegetables they send to supermarkets and Asian grocery stores around the North Island and to Hong Kong.

Allan's father came to New Zealand as a 16 year old in 1940 and worked on market gardens in Panmure. On a trip back to Guangzhou he married Allan's mother and she followed him out to New Zealand much later arriving in 1954.

Allan's mother Goon Fong is now 88-years-old and still plants and tends vegetables on the sides of some of Allan's rows.

"I can't get her to rest," Allan says. "You wouldn't believe it, rain or shine every Saturday she gets up at 5 o'clock and she goes down (to the local flea market), and she sells all her veg......It's just habits from the old way."

Allan says despite being in New Zealand for more than 60 years, his mother knows very little English.

 "She can tell you how much," Allan laughs. "She can tell you that."