Horticulture New Zealand says the findings of the survey confirm that the sector will help drive New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery.
Logan and Melissa Johnson have been running their Farm Fresh South business for more than two years, delivering to “quite a few” customers across Southland and as far north as Dunedin.
“We’ve almost doubled our home delivery customers in the last two weeks,” says Logan Johnson.
The family moved to Southland from Motueka in 2009 to take up dairy farming, spending three years in farm assistant and herd manager roles, then five years as contract milkers before getting their own small farm, a few km north of Invercargill, where they have consents to milk up to 50 cows.
Johnson says he is talking to a couple of other farmers about sourcing milk because they can’t keep up with demand.
The business sells milk in glass bottles from vending machines on farm, and delivers throughout the south on a weekly schedule.
They have their own delivery vehicle but also use contractors for the more far-flung areas.
Johnson said a new contractor had just started for some of the Dunedin deliveries as they had too many for one to complete in a day.
While the milk all comes from their own dairy farm, Johnson says he now talking with a couple of other farmers about sourcing milk to meet the demand.
Meanwhile, they have they have progressively added other produce, by teaming up with other local suppliers.
“We’ve got our milk, we’ve got bread from the local baker, Bakers Beyond, we’ve got vegies, honey, eggs and we’ve got meatpacks now as well - Leelands Lamb has come on board.”
They also offer spray-free avocados from a Tauranga grower, after an introduction arranged by one of their customers.
“That’s a wee bit different, because you can’t grow them down here.”
Another addition is a local bulk foods supplier, The Pantry.
Johnson said they have tried to offer as much value and variety as possible but with COVID looming had sped up the process.
“For example, the bread from Bakers Beyond. That started about a week before the lockdown but we had been looking for options for that type of stuff anyway. It just made us do it quicker.
“And Leelands Lamb – we have been talking with them for a while to come on board.”
The Covid-19 emergency hasn’t all been plain sailing. They had been supplying milk to some cafes and retail stores (pasteurised because raw milk can only be sold directly to the end consumer, not through any third party) but Johnson says they lost that trade “overnight.”
Covid-19 precautions include new rules for their onfarm milk vending machines – only one person in the shop at a time, with hand sanitisers available.
Their delivery driver is masked when handling orders and uses hand sanitiser between deliveries, while their website reminds home customers to keep their distance.
“You know we love to say hi and have a chat when we can but we ask that, for the time being, we deliver the milk from a distance. Have your bottles cleaned at in the designated place to be picked up.”
New cleaning schedules are also in place for vehicles and machinery.
The website adds that food safety guidelines mean that anyone with a cold, flu or bug isn’t involved in the harvesting, bottling, or delivery of milk, at all times, not just the present situation.
Johnson said that with everything changing so quickly the main thing for them was to get accurate information about what they could and could not do under COVID-19 restrictions.
“But for us, we have always fallen under the food production essential service; it was just a matter of how we were able to sell it.”