29 Apr 2016

Peonies and Parsley

From Country Life, 9:14 pm on 29 April 2016

Vegetable and herb grower Rodger Whitson admits to knowing 'absolutely nothing' about growing leafy greens before he started on the venture 11 years ago.

The former butcher seems to have picked up a thing or two along the way.

He now grows 20 different types of greens and herbs hydroponically in his Mosgiel greenhouse and has gone from taking 12 crates of produce to the Saturday Otago Farmers' Market, to 50.

Rodger's the chair of the Farmer's Market held beside the Dunedin Railway Station each week.  He says the 13-year-old market's thriving.  It now has 60-70 stall holders in the peak of the season and a regular client base of between three and four thousand who come every week to buy their fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and cheese.  .

A gate tally one Saturday in March counted 8,000 customers.

"We're pretty pleased with that. Not many shops could say they get 8,000 people past their door in four hours."

Rodger says Otago University students make up big part of the market's clientele.

"There are some characters. Some days you can be serving away and you look up and there's two young ladies walking along and they're in their dressing gowns; walked across the road from their flat and here they are in their dressing gowns and slippers, so you do see sights some mornings."

He says it's very noticeable when the students are on holiday.

"They really add to the atmosphere and the buzz of the market."