Salty River Farm

Daryn, Louise and their two boys started their adventure five years ago when they shifted from their Waiheke Island home of nearly 17 years and bought their little farm in Tauhoa, calling it Salty River Farm because it sits on a tidal arm of the Kaipara. They were determined to make a living off it, especially when they were told it was too small to be viable - a bit under 50 acres.

They started breeding goats, marketing and selling the meat. As the business gained traction, the abattoir they were using closed and there was no other feasible option. They were gutted and so were their customers. They picked themselves up and started on the next project - market gardening.

Three years later, they produce beautiful lettuces, several kinds of herbs, edible flowers, zucchini, scallopini, pumpkin, apple cucumbers, silverbeet and kale. “We want to grow and sell veggies the old-fashioned way, fresh, seasonal and without chemicals. A simple idea, but it requires plenty of hard work, especially when you’re new to it,” Daryn says. 

Old fashioned values are just as important off the farm as they are on it. For Salty River Farm, this means a friendly face and helping hand. “We love our customers, so being personable and getting to know them is a really important part of our business. We know most customers on a first name basis and many of them have been coming to us since the day we opened. They’re part of our business - they’ve watched us grow and we’ve grown with them.” Daryn and Louise find other growers and take their produce to market too. Having a full vegetable selection is important for the growing community of Hobsonville Point. The Port Albert General Store also gets a regular delivery of lettuces to sell.

Along the way, it has been a process of trial and error. “We’ve learnt from talking to people and reading, but nothing beats your own experience, so you just have to jump in and make a start.” They grow the lettuces and some of the herbs using Hydroponics, a method of growing plants out of the ground. Plants receive nutrients via water-based, mineral-rich solutions through an elevated garden bed. The couple choose to grow these in coconut coir and pumice – so after harvest any waste can be composted. It’s a sustainable alternative to traditional farming methods; hydroponic gardens don’t require the use of fertilisers or chemical pesticides, and they use less water than traditional growing methods. In Daryn and Louise’s case, using filtered, recycled rainwater further reduces their impact on the environment. Other crops are grown in the ground, using the fertile flat paddocks on the river side.

The family are proud of their commitment to waste reduction - vegetable scraps from the market are fed to the goats or composted, lettuces are sold wrapped in paper. Cardboard and paper bags used for packaging. They’ve started turning excess produce into pickles and preserves which will be sold in the future.

“Coming to the farm has changed our life in many ways. It has made us closer as a family, to appreciate the simple things in life, and has proven that with an open mind you can do a lot on a little farm.”

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