Professor Jane Mills, pro vice-chancellor of Massey University’s College of Health, explains how the future for rural health in NZ is positive.
The Masterchef NZ 2011 winner says she looks at all the different products from overseas and thinks that surely New Zealand can grow some of these.
My Food Bag is a highly successful business delivering four or five nights weekly its customers' dinner recipes and all ingredients. It hit $100 million revenue last year in only its third year of business.
Lim says the customer of the future will demand more choice – of different cultivars, heritage crops and a choice of spray-free, organic or conventionally grown.
Lim told growers at the Horticulture NZ conference to be thought of as leaders they must stay ahead with creative ideas.
"I reckon NZ is the smartest country in the world. Kiwis have the best ideas, I think because we are on the edge of the world. It amazes me and makes me so proud."
Asked how growers could help My Food Bag, Lim says the company loves introducing customers to new products – new lines of produce. Sometimes they come across an unusual product – for instance a zebra tomato – but often they can't get enough volume.
Because of the volumes through the business they now need to carefully plan recipes in advance and tell growers in advance when the product is needed, depending on how long it takes to grow.
That can be tricky in recipe planning, she says.
Asked how growers could assist, Lim said by really good communication on what new products they have that consumers may want to try.
"Let us know about them because we don't always know what new things are out there,"
"Then give us very clear guidelines on when it will be ready and make sure it will be ready at that time. That of course can be tricky because weather can come into play: if there is a storm then suddenly it is all gone.
"Because our recipes have to be planned far in advance, we need to know when it will be available. We can't just have someone come up and say 'we've got X tonnes of this product; can you take it?' "
She says My Food Bag is a great way to trial new products on people.
"We will test it out in the test kitchen and see what we can do with it, then put it in the bags; it is a great way to get feedback from customers. They will tell us whether they like it or not or whether it is too weird or whatever."
Another big trend is turmeric; she is not sure if that can be grown here. "That will be something that explodes; I think it will be the next kale."
Lim says lots of people want organic but they can't afford it. Her advice to people who want to eat organic and see it become more commonplace is, start with one or two produce lines that are organic.
"Hopefully we can increase the demand for it and once the demand is there the farmers will grow more organic."