Organic garden has very historic roots

LAURA RICHARDS
Last updated 05:01 10/12/2013
Richard Morgans and Michelle Burnett have seed lines dating back thousands of years.
Fairfax NZ

OLD SEEDS: Richard Morgans and Michelle Burnett have seed lines dating back thousands of years.

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Richard Morgans and fiancee Michelle Burnett grow 65 varieties of seeds to seedlings on their small organics property near Marton.

The business sells vegetable, herb and companion plant seedlings plus heirloom fruit trees and berries.

They grow tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, lettuces, fennel, pumpkin and companion plants like calendula. Each year they add more to the collection.

In mid-November they estimated there were 22,000 plants in the greenhouse. They have about 200 square metres of growing area, including a shadehouse to harden off seedlings before they go out to retail stores.

One crop not grown on the property is garlic, which they grow in partnership with another person in Te Horo. Last year they planted 200kg of garlic seed, which gave them between 1.8 to 2 tonnes of bulbs. This year they will be planting 100kg of their own seed garlic.

"It's very labour intensive at the start and once it's in you can pretty much leave it," Morgans says.

They sell Edible Organics seedlings at New World supermarkets from Dannevirke to Feilding and Marton and along the Kapiti Coast, and at several Mitre 10 Mega stores. They are fully certified as organic through BioGro.

Some of the seed lines date back to several thousand years ago.

"People think purple-dragon carrots are totally new fangled. They've been seen in cave drawings dated back to 2000BC," Ms Burnett says.

"Another favourite is silverbeet bright lights or rainbow chard, which is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre as well as being so colourful to grow in the garden. It's one of our most popular lines."

Morgans grew up in a dairy-farm family in Britain before working on an organic market garden at Te Horo.

"The funny thing is people will say 'I can't afford organics'," he says. "In our opinion, the reality is, the healthier you eat the less you eat. The more processed rubbish you eat - you're not getting full and you're eating a lot more.

"I know from experience. If I went back 10 years, I'd be eating twice as much as I eat now, yet I can still maintain a healthy bodyweight eating half of what I use to," he said.

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