Friday, 31 January 2020 13:15

Hard yards on family farm pays off

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
NZ Young Vegetable Grower of the Year Austin Singh Purewal. NZ Young Vegetable Grower of the Year Austin Singh Purewal.

Harvesting 15 tonnes of cabbage in hailstorms and hand weeding paddocks under a scorching sun made a perfect training ground for Austin Singh Purewal.

The 18-year-old, who won the NZ Young Vegetable Grower of the Year award two months ago, says the hard work on the family farm is paying off.

Purewal, the youngest-ever to win the title, told Hort News that although growing up on the family farm wasn’t easy, he enjoyed the challenges.

“Had we not experienced the hardships of cutting 15 tonnes of cabbage in hail storms, or hand weeding hectare blocks of produce in the scorching sun, my brother and I wouldn’t have shaped up to be the men we are today.

“I wouldn’t have been able to win the young grower award and I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I already have at age 18.”

Purewal recalls having an eye for technology as a boy: looking at inventions for picking and packing produce to make things easy for farmers and workers on-farm.

From a young age, Purewal was also introduced to financial planning in business.

“The interest in money was my key driving force as from a young age my brother and I ran our own stalls in farmers’ markets. We saw customers buying our hard work. 

“We were able to experience how to handle and generate income through selling fresh produce which was benefiting the community and teaching us life skills.”

Working on the family farm was also fun, like walking the brassica crops and in the orchard with the dog after school and riding quads.

One company closely associated with Purewal and the family business was T&G (formerly Turners & Growers), a major global buyer/supplier of fruits and vegetables. 

After winning the Pukekohe regional young grower contest earlier this year, Purewal was offered a job in T&G, a dream come true, he says.

“I really love working for T&G as I can remember from age four tagging along with dad and dropping off fresh produce at the Mount Wellington floors, then going to McDonald’s afterwards for a mean feed. 

“I’ve always had a relationship with T&G. Now being part of a business we have been dealing with most of my life is truly special.

“I love the fact that working for T&G isn’t working with other employees or employers. I’m working with other family members, as being an 18-year-old starting fresh in the corporate world T&G has been nothing but a family to me.” 

He acknowledges T&G’s contribution to his fledgling career.

“They’ve made my journey into the company truly special by taking me under their wing, nourishing me with knowledge and nurturing me to success in the horticultural industry.

“I enjoy that we supply fresh produce not only here in New Zealand but globally and that’s what touches me in my heart -- that I’m part of a company that is all over the world, supplying fresh produce to people everywhere.”

Purewal sees the world as his oyster. He sees himself stepping up to a management role in the next five to 10 years.

A return to the family farm one day isn’t out of the question.

But like most horticulture farmers and stakeholders, Purewal is worried about looming changes to land and water use.

He believes the Government should work closely with farmers and should do more to support the younger generations, especially women, to move into horticulture.

He sees himself staying in the horticultural industry if the Government “pulls finger”.

“If the Government puts plans together to promote horticulture and provide support to our younger generations who want to start their own horticultural businesses and stay in the game.”

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