The Wymer name is well respected in the Franklin district thanks to the family’s strong market gardening connections and their extensive support of local events such as the Vintage Harvest Festival run in conjunction with the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, which is just over the road from the family farm.
Murray Wymer says his family started market gardening in 1904 with 100 acres near Sylvia Park. The family moved to the 130 ha Glenbrook property in 1914 with three generations involved – Murray’s father Norman, grandfather Ron and great-grandfather Isaac Junior. Murray now runs the family’s business, RC Wymer Limited, established by his grandfather in the early ‘60s, and says his young sons are also keen on farming. “Over the years, we’ve grown all sorts from kiwifruit to kumara, pumpkins, potatoes, onions, wheat, barley, peas, cabbages,” Murray explains. “For now, we are focused on onions, growing around 80 ha a year, plus barley for feed grain, maize for silage and grain, and grass for cattle, giving us a rotation of about five years before a paddock goes back into onions.
We swap land with Peter and Murray Aarts of Sundale Farms in Pukekawa for them to grow broccoli and potatoes so some home farm blocks have had about 10 years between onion crops.” The Wymer family own half of the export business, Produce Agencies, and Murray says changes in export potato returns influenced his decision to focus on onions. “We export 95% of our onions, growing a range of varieties to spread risk with both the growing cycle and market pricing. Due to health and safety considerations, we’ve moved away from hand-harvested early varieties. Everything we grow is machine harvested.”
Machinery, especially vintage, plays a key part in Murray’s life and was an interest he shared with Norman, who passed away three years ago. Murray enjoys restoring various pieces of farm equipment. “We still use some of it on the odd occasion; it’s great not to just leave it in the shed.”
The Vintage Harvest Festival is hosted on the Wymer’s farm every second March in association with the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. “We try and help where we can, and enjoy our involvement. It’s important to keep this heritage alive, because once it goes, we’ll never get it back again." The Wymer’s links to Fruitfed Supplies also go back a few years and include hosting trial sites for the Technical Team’s Research and Development trial work, something Murray says is important. “We host seed trials too as these trials help all growers and our future in the industry.
Their Fruitfed Supplies Technical Horticultural Representative, Jesse Clark, is heading into his third season of onion agronomy with Murray. Jesse is involved with weekly crop walks to identify potential pest and disease issues and discuss the best crop management product options. He also takes the soil and leaf test samples and reviews the results with Murray to plan bulk and foliar fertiliser programmes.
“Jesse has his own family market gardening history as I know his grandfather who grew potatoes in Hawke’s Bay,” says Murray. “The good thing about Jesse is that he’ll ask advice from guys who’ve been doing it longer if he needs to.”
A member of Onions NZ, Murray adds that he is constantly assessing the market for other crops. “We may not stay exclusively in onions. The export market is getting smaller, as the quality, yield and storage capabilities of European crops improves. Developing countries are also getting more yield because they’re using Western products and seeds. So we keep our options open.”
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