George Vezich has been selling at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market since it started in 2009.
What brought you to New Zealand?
I was 18 years old, military service was compulsory in Yugoslavia, but it didn’t pay. I came here to earn money to send back to my family.
What did you do when you got here?
I worked at Crown Lynn making cups and then Cambridge clothing before starting a fast food business. It was a good business to be in before McDonalds came to New Zealand.
Fast food to farming, how did that happen?
I always loved the land and animals, and fast food wasn’t good for family life, so I bought a patch of land and started farming in Whenuapai selling strawberries and vegetables from a road-side shop. It was very popular and we always had lots of customers so I bought another plot in Huapai to increase the amount I grow. In summer, lots of people still come for strawberry icecream and pick-your own strawberries at the end of the season.
Apart from the motorway what other changes have you noticed since you started farming in the 70s?
The houses and shops are getting close so the wild birds and animals have no where else to go. They turn up here on my farm. Everyone says I should sell but I like it here and I don’t want to go anywhere else.
What kind of birds?
The pheasants are very cunning. They watch me planting beans - they wait a week until the beans are soft, then dig them up and eat them. I put up netting to protect the beans but sometimes the clever birds find gaps in the netting.
How much of what you sell is spray-free?
Most of it is spray-free – I don’t like spray and neither do my customers. I prefer spray-free methods like growing celery off the ground to remove the risk of pests and spots. But sometimes I need to spray, especially if it goes to the auctions. This is particularly the case with strawberries as they are the most vulnerable. I spray as little as possible and leave it as long as possible before I pick.
Why do you sell at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market?
When the motorway bypassed my shop, I had to find another way to sell our produce. I sell at three farmers markets - Mt Albert and Oratia on Saturdays, and Grey Lynn on Sundays.
Grey Lynn is my favourite because the customers are so loyal and friendly. They love “my bugs” and understand that’s part of spray-free. I also want to thank my customers for recycling our plastic containers – it helps us and it helps the environment.
And what about that queue?
It’s funny – I never ask people to queue. They are just being polite. Actually it moves pretty quickly. I always ask people if I can get things for them but sometimes they just want to see everything. If people have only a few things to buy, or are in a hurry, they should just ask me or one of my helpers – we’ll get it for them.
As published in Ponsonby News : December 2017