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Fresh produce .. Fruit and vegetables set to go out to customers. PHOTO: CAM BOOKER

By DAVID HILL

Farmers’ markets have closed, but business is booming for one popular stallholder.

Sefton-based Grown’s home delivery service has “gone through the roof” since the Covid-19 lockdown was announced last month, owner Cam Booker says.

“Our business got turned upside down. We can’t sell anything at farmer’s markets at the moment because they’re not classified as essential, but we are incredibly fortunate that we were already doing online deliveries.

Cam admits there were a few nervous days after the lockdown was announced, as it was unclear what trading would be allowed.

“We drop and go, so it’s contactless. We just leave it on the doorstep and everything is paid online, so nothing had to change.

“We were pretty nervous for a while, so we were pretty relieved when the confirmation from MBIE (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) came through.

Before the lockdown, Grown was supplying 60 boxes a week, but that has grown to 350.

There are a few regulations to meet in the new environment, including staff wearing face masks and gloves when handling food and ensuring the shed is clean and sanitised.

Cam realises how lucky he is, with other growers and producers who sell at farmer’s markets, or supply to independent produce shops, restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets, having to compost their crop.

Horticulture New Zealand estimates 30 percent of fresh produce goes to independents, including shops such as Vege’n Out in Woodend and farmers’ markets, which off the supermarketssays.

While online orders provide more certainty with income, it creates more stress and administration than the farmers’ markets.

The Grown team used to harvest on Wednesday and pack the boxes on Thursday morning for delivery. Now, harvesting begins on Monday.

“It’s definitely harder.

“When selling at farmers’ markets you take what is ready and if you sell out, then you sell out.”

To ensure boxes are filled to order, he calls on the help of local grower mates when needed.