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Alan Fong can very clearly remember backing his ute up to the produce delivery zone at Farro, Lunn Ave 10 years ago when Farro first opened its doors. He can’t believe it has been so long, but when you are as busy as he is, time certainly does fly.

Alan Fong and The Fresh Grower team are January’s True Local heroes. We are sure you know his work well – those gorgeous, slender stems; crispy cos; the ready-to-eat spinach and silverbeet … everyday staples. This delicious Fresh Grower Green Salad combines some of The Fresh Grower’s finest.

Our team took a trip out to The Fresh Grower farm to meet everyone responsible for bringing the harvest for your dinner tables to our stores, and to listen to Alan’s vegetable ideology.

We find Alan an exceptionally inspiring individual. Three generations have worked their farm for the past 50 years; it was passed down to him and his brother Colin, and that same legacy continues with Alan’s two sons now also working the land and actively engaged in the business.

Based in Pukekohe, the original 12-hectare plot was run by Alan’s father. Now with more than 300 hectares, The Fresh Grower works to a proactive integrated pest and disease management (IPM) programme, which means they aim for minimal or no pesticide residue.

Picking at optimum times for the best quality, and packing in the field, they stand 100% behind the quality of their produce. Both sons play roles in the business; one overseeing the packaging shed, the other – a chef – helps come up with the fantastic recipes on the back of The Fresh Grower packaging.

His challenge is to keep up with his father’s extremely innovative ideas. Alan is always changing and altering his crops to make them more appealing to suit many different needs, from specialised fine dining restaurants to simply encouraging more vegetable consumption in the Kiwi diet. Every recipe is created in the hope there will be one more reason for a customer to pick up and try a new vegetable from their farm.

Alan is all-aware of the changing needs of the customer, and so is also providing ‘faster meals on the table’ solutions. Slender stems are a great example of a no-knife vegetable; they can be simply washed and stir fried, steamed or boiled. Allan’s travels overseas to keep abreast with trends in the marketplace has really kept The Fresh Grower top of the market.

The desire to keep offering something new and exciting means we’ve always got something special to offer you. Never one to shy away from recognising how the land plays the most important part in their life, the Fong family and its team feel their vegetables are best with a bit of dirt on them as a way to remind you that these things take time to grow and that prewashing reduces shelf life for the customer.

A grower’s life is one of seasons and cycles, and at any one time, Alan and his team may have over 15 varieties of the same crop growing, each with a slight variation for different conditions or uses. This month we celebrate the hard work that Alan Fong and The Fresh Grower team have put in, for all of our 10 years, to lead the market, innovate and experiment and be a true local hero at Farro Fresh.