The day starts early for the owners of 185, the market garden in Hope; Gavin is in the gardens by 5am each day while Angela makes sure the kids are ready for school, paperwork is done and the shop is ready to open, then it is all go until they finish for the day and that is when the work has been done, not when the clock says it’s time to finish.
Gavin Williams and Angela Penman relocated their business from a mere two acres of land on the main road in Stoke to Hope in 2003 because they could see an opportunity in the fresh fruit and vegetable market, little did they know then just how much Nelsonians would embrace their business. When they relocated they moved one of the original Stoke glasshouses and started cropping the balance of the land and now have 30 acres (about 12 Ha) of intensively cropped market gardens that supplies their on-site shop, many small local business and is of course where you can pick-your-own produce.
185 in Hope isn’t the biggest market garden in the region but I am pretty sure it is the biggest that doesn’t sell to big distributors, all of their produce is sold through their own on-site store. Because they grow the produce and sell direct without one, two or three middlemen with their associated costs added to the final price they can sell to you at very good prices and based on the huge queues of people who line up every day during the summer it appears you love that.
When I had a chat with Gavin and Angela last week I was astounded at some of the numbers we talked about but as Gavin said “all we do is grow fresh seasonal produce, a bit like the home gardener but on a huge scale”. That sounds like a typical understatement from these very hard working and humble people, this year you will buy close to 20 tonnes of ready-picked and packed or PYO strawberries alone from them and that sounds like a lot more than just a big home garden to me.
Angela says they try and grow as much as of their own produce to sell at the shop as possible but they do buy some produce form other small local growers like themselves. “We just don’t have space to grow things like soft berries (raspberries) and stone fruit so we make sure we support other local producers where we can”.
Whatever they sell you can guarantee it will be fresh and seasonal, as Gavin says ‘if it isn’t the time of year to grow it we won’t have it. People come to us because they can buy fresh produce rather than imported stuff”. He says “at this time of year as the strawberries start winding down the corn season gets going along with onions and capsicum then the field tomatoes start along with eggplant, then we start moving into winter vege with things like brassicas”.
Of course there is a cross-over period when many of these are available at the same time and that means there is always a great selection available
While I was there I met Tejas Arn from the East Street Vegetarian Café & Bar and I asked him why he shopped at 185. He said he could always rely on the quality, the staff are very friendly and helpful and the price is the best he can get, in fact even with driving out from the city a couple of times a week to select the produce he needs it is still cheaper that buying from other suppliers.
The other thing that is very popular at 185 is the pick-your-own option. People who like to buy in bulk love this option, especially when it comes to tomatoes for sauce making. I think others who like to pick their own produce treat it as a chance to get some fresh air and walk around the gardens, there aren’t many places you can do that these days.
Angela says times like the couple of weeks before Christmas and Fridays (the only day the shop is open in winter) are just crazy with people queuing up for ages to get served. She says they thought about having a coffee or ice cream cart but she says that would just make things worse and people seem to treat the wait as a bit of a social occasion, a time to catch up with friends and other regular shoppers.
There is another thing that separates 185 from other fruit and vegetable retailers – you don’t get a shopping trolley, you get a wheelbarrow. Gavin says it is a bit of fun seeing people with barrow loads of fresh garden vegetables and it also makes it really easy for those who want to do the bulk PYO thing.
185 at Hope is one of those Nelson businesses that has a focus on quality and service and based on how busy they are you love it as much as I do.