Malkiat Singh and his father (Amrik) have recently joined the market, selling BioGro certified organic vegetables.
Where did you grow up?
In the north of India. Chandigarh is small by Indian standards but has nearly as many people as Auckland. Everywhere is dense in India – it’s a competitive environment that encourages a drive to do things.
What did you study there?
Mechatronics and industrial automation. I was lucky to be accepted into the Indo-Swiss Training Centre. It was intense but I loved it and I’m particularly proud of a project where we built a small autonomous vehicle from scratch using scrap metals.
What did you do when you got to New Zealand?
A mix of more study and work. I started in Auckland before moving to Christchurch where I worked as a software engineer.
When did you start getting interested in growing vegetables?
My grandparents were farmers, and my mother grew a lot of vegetables on our roof-top garden, but I had never gardened until I was living with an eclectic bunch of flatmates in Christchurch who were strong advocates for growing and eating organic food. Growing vegetables and getting my hands into the soil brought back lots of memories of home.
When did you start gardening in Auckland?
We started with a small plot at our home when we moved to Tuakau, turning our lawn into a garden. We set up compost and an automated irrigation system to create a prolific garden full of fruit trees and vegetables. Our aim was to feed our family but we were impressed with what could be achieved in a small plot.
Where did your name come from?
The name of our farm was inspired by Kingseat Road, in Pukekohe, where we bought a lifestyle block. We also like the word play – Kings eat Organics – with our customers being kings and queens.
What is your approach to growing on a commercial scale?
We started with one paddock, then two, and then three paddocks. We enrolled in the BioGro programme and then went wild planting a huge range of vegetable seeds as trial crops. It’s an elimination strategy - taking lots of measurements and notes, watching what grows well on our land and what doesn’t. We are taking the path of least resistance, growing the crops that are hardiest and easiest to grow on our land.
How did you end up at Grey Lynn Farmers Market?
Initially, we supplied to Chantel Organics and to Ooooby but we were keen to build relationships with the people eating our produce. When we were checking out markets, a customer at Grey Lynn told me that they regularly travel across Auckland because of the range of fresh vegetables and the number of organic growers – I knew this market was a good fit for us.
What have customers said to you?
They love to hear about how we are growing our vegetables. Some have been surprised to find turnips which they remember from their childhood but haven’t seen for years. Others are surprised that there is no soil on our produce – that’s because we spend hours on Saturday harvesting and washing the vegetables to get ready for the market.
Do you get any time off?
When you love farming, every day is a dream holiday. I split my time between my young family and the farm. We have lots of chickens and two water buffaloes with two calves – they are pets, so the babies get all the milk. We also planted hundreds of trees including fruit trees and Manuka - some of our crops are grown specifically to support bees over winter. And I have a few projects in the pipeline including making organic skincare from our farm produce, and time-saving farming tools and small machines. Life is busy and fun.
As published in Ponsonby News : July 2023