Lewis Farms from Horowhenua decided to diversify into strawberries out of a selfless desire to create year-round employment for the staff. Geoff and Liz Lewis, who started growing and packing Tendertips asparagus in 1980 for the local and export market, now have son Cam and wife Catherine on board as joint owners of both Tendertips and its main supplier, Lewis Farms.
"The asparagus season is short and sweet, from September to Christmas. So with the energy of Cam and I on board and the real challenge of sourcing good seasonal labour, the family decided 2018 was the right time to diversify," says Catherine Lewis.
"By planting 1.1 hectares of strawberries in tunnels, our strawberry season will run from September/October through to May – allowing us to hold onto core staff for 9-12 months of the year."
Catherine and Cam Lewis walk through their new strawberry tunnels
The Lewis family is committed to employing local Horowhenua New Zealanders, but they also employ some of the local refugee population through the Red Cross, as well as people from the local Samoan community.
While excited to see where strawberries will take them, asparagus remains number one. With a number of blocks in the region growing several varieties of asparagus, Tendertips sells 500 tons of asparagus to both the local New Zealand and Japanese export markets.