In 2013, Daryn and Louise with their sons Sam and Joe left Waiheke Island after 17 years to begin a new life on a 50-acre farm near Port Albert and the Kaipara Harbour.
Initially they raised goats, cattle and free-range hens for eggs at Salty River Farm, but over the years they’ve focused more on horticulture. They still raise around 20 calves a year, but goats are on the back-burner for now, and the chooks have gone, leaving them more time to focus on their passion: vegetables, herbs and flowers.
It was a steep learning curve setting up the hydroponic nursery which they realised was the most sustainable way to raise much of their luscious produce, but Louise reckons they’ve got it sussed now; they’re expanding and trying new ways of growing, too. “Over lockdown we transformed a paddock into 35 ‘no-dig’ garden beds using nutrient-rich soil over cardboard bases – it’s working really well.”
The pair use all-natural methods to prevent insects and boost production. “We use a lot of nets to stop pests getting in; the flowers we mix in with the veges tend to distract them, too. We find that healthy plants are naturally more resistant so we use an organic seaweed fertiliser.” If all else fails, they might resort to the chilli and garlic spray.
Louise says their customers love Salty River Farm’s range of edible flowers. “Nasturtiums are probably the favourite, but cornflowers, borage and calendula petals look beautiful in salads as well.” Baby beets and small, sweet ‘cone-head’ cabbages are proving popular too.
Louise and Daryn are excited about their new online store and their recent addition – fully home-compostable, worm-farm friendly packaging for their lettuces and baby leaves. “It’s a game changer for our customers, and for us too – we have no rubbish to deal with because
we can just compost any offcuts,” says Louise.
Right now the tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers are finally starting to slow down. The couple are busy harvesting pumpkins which they’ll soon be bringing to the Catalina Bay Farmers Market – they love this social time catching up with their regular shoppers.
Here’s Louise’s recipe for Salty River Farm Pumpkin Pie. Enjoy!
750g pumpkin - peeled, deseeded, diced
2 sheets sweet shortcrust pastry
140g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp icing sugar
Simmer pumpkin in water until tender, drain and cool. Heat oven to 180C. Line a 22cm tart tin with pastry. Chill 15 mins. Line with baking paper and beans, and blind bake for 15 mins. Remove baking beans and paper, cook for a further 10 mins until pastry is pale golden. Allow to cool. Increase the oven to 220C. Puree pumpkin. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, salt, nutmeg and half the cinnamon. Mix in beaten eggs, melted butter and milk, add to pumpkin and combine. Pour into the tart shell and cook for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 180C. Continue to bake 35-40 mins until just set.Cool, remove from tin. Mix remaining cinnamon with icing sugar and dust over.