A passion for horticulture and community is the driving force behind TomatoesNZ’s newest board member, Jungeun (Jiny) Kim.
Nestled down a long driveway in the heart of Waiuku, southwest of Auckland, lies the Kim family’s horticulture operation. Jungeun (Jiny) and her husband Minju have been growing tomatoes in Waiuku since 2019, moving from their first tomato-growing site in Helensville, northwest of Auckland. They grow the Daniela variety of tomatoes along with some courgettes.
“My husband worked for another tomato grower for four years before he started his own: he had experience growing tomatoes, but he didn’t know all the techniques needed for growing. We failed that first year,” Jiny says.
“We were lucky to move to this [Waiuku] site, leasing it from a family friend. The Helensville site was much smaller, and we have much more potential here.”
There are five greenhouses on their almost 4000 square meter site. However, Cyclone Gabrielle caused significant damage to one of the houses, removing the roof and leaving them with a large repair cost. Around this time, the Kims also lost their one employee to the construction industry, which could offer a higher pay rate. So, they have scaled back to four greenhouses, with both Jiny and Minju working for the business full-time.
Minju grew up in the countryside in South Korea and longed to bring their children up in the countryside or a smaller town. He is passionate about horticulture despite its many challenges.
Jiny worked in the Israeli embassy in Seoul, South Korea, for many years before moving to New Zealand, where she met her husband more than 20 years ago. Here, she raised her young family, later becoming an early childhood education teacher. With no background in horticulture, Jiny joins dozens of other highly educated Koreans working in horticulture in New Zealand.
She speaks frankly about the difficulties the couple faced in their first few years growing tomatoes, citing numerous challenges due to outdated facilities, limited knowledge, information, and networking opportunities in the tomato-growing industry.
“However, these difficulties ignited a strong passion within me for growing tomatoes. I discovered that I truly enjoyed the daily growth of tomato plants and how they responded to various techniques I implemented.”
Now, five years on from taking up horticulture full-time, Jiny is passionate about connecting the Korean community with the wider horticulture industry.
“I realized that growing is not just about financial gains but also about giving back to the community in many ways. Both my husband and I take great pride in that. As a Korean-speaking woman with a different background in horticulture, I strongly believe that I bring a fresh perspective and valuable, creative ideas to the industry.”