Virginia Alexander is a regular stallholder at the market with her sauces, chutneys and cakes.
How long have you been living on the farm?
All my life but, when my Dad died unexpectedly, Mum and I took over running the farm. I was nursing full-time so it was very demanding.
Had you been involved in the day to day running of the farm before that?
Not as much as I’d thought. I really wish that I’d asked Dad more questions and taken more notice of what he did when and how. Mum and I went through the accounts to work out when Dad paid for supplies (e.g. fertiliser) and then we rang the supplier to ask what Dad bought last year - we bought the same again. And I really wish I had asked him where all the water pipes run! Water is always an issue on a farm.
How is the farm different now that you are running things?
The biggest thing is the stock that I keep. Dad raised Hereford and Friesian calves but I have switched to Scotttish Highland Cattle. They are one of the top meat breeds – the Queen farms them and apparently that is the only beef she serves.
Tell me about your cattle. Are they miniatures?
They are very cute and they look short but actually their bodies are full-sized - it’s just the legs that are short. But I am getting some real miniatures soon and they are only as tall as a big dog. I can’t wait til they arrive.
Some couples have separate bedrooms but you and your husband have his and hers farms.
Yes – we both live in the house on my farm but we have very different styles of farming. I like not having to compromise how I want to run things. He doesn’t always approve of all my fruit trees or my cattle, but it doesn’t matter because he can make his own choices on his own farm.
How did you get into making chutneys and sauces?
I live rurally so making preserves is an automatic part of what I do. I like to make the most of what the land provides and leave the land in a better state than when I started. The cattle and hens provide lots of natural fertiliser that I collect and use for the gardens. I grow lots of my own food, I have lots of fruit trees. I’m particularly fond of the figgery and I am experimenting with different varieties.
Tell me about your famous Maharajah chutney
A patient who had been a chef gave me the recipe It’s based on oranges, onions and a mountain of Indian spices. He insisted that it would be the best chutney that I ever tasted. When I finally got all the ingredients together to make it, I agreed with him and so did my chef friend, Adam – it’s my signature product.
You often have interesting flowers on your market table.
Mum and I have always had a picking garden and she taught me how to arrange flowers. I used arrange the flowers for my friend’s restaurant, and I have done flowers for a few events. When the season allows, I like to bring some to the market.
What brought you to Grey Lynn Farmers Market?
I knew some of the other stallholders from other markets and they were always telling me that I would be a good fit for Grey Lynn. And they were right – I always enjoy the customers and the other stallholders have been very welcoming.
As published in Ponsonby News : July 2020