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Celebrating Generations of Being on the Land: A Father's Day Reflection

Written by Owner Melanie Kennerley

As Father's Day approaches, I find myself reminiscing about my family's long history of farming and selling meat and produce and how it has evolved over the years. This stretches back five generations to my great, great grandfather who travelled from Westport and settled in 1903 to manage a 12 acre orchard in Springfield, Northland. 

 

My family at that time produced apples, pears, plums, peaches, oranges, lemons, quinces, bananas and eggs from 300 ducks to sell in Auckland.  The produce all travelled by scow (a type of flat-bottomed barge) from Oakleigh down to Auckland.  History has it that my great, great grandparents said that if only they’d had hen eggs instead of ducks then they would have made a fortune. In addition to produce they sent pork to Auckland which travelled hanging in the rigging of the scow. 

 

Each year they dug up huge areas in the orchard to plant potatoes to sell and maize to feed the cows. They very quickly then bought the orchard and surrounding land and the farm doubled in size with each generation until it was substantially larger when I grew up on it. 

 

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Melanie's Great Grandmother and family members making hay 

 

When my grandfather, Poppa, finished at school, he trained in Waipu to be a butcher.  He butchered all the animals for the week on a Sunday and after they were prepared during the week he then delivered the meat on horseback. 

 

Fast forward to the present, and we are now six generations down the line of selling produce, meat and eggs, with our son leading the charge as the Business Manager of our Karaka based store Paddock to Pantry along with its online grocery delivery service. Paddock to Pantry sources top-quality meat, produce, and pantry items from passionate farmers and suppliers all over New Zealand, which our customers can easily order online and have delivered right to their doorsteps nationwide.

 

The transformation from my great, great grandfathers time to the modern era is nothing short of mind-blowing. In a little over a century, growing, shopping and delivery methods have undergone a dramatic revolution. Gone are the days of horseback deliveries or transport via scows; instead, we now rely on cars, trucks and planes for same-day grocery delivery across Auckland or overnight to the rest of New Zealand. Technological advances in packaging enable us to ensure our fresh meat and chilled products stay perfectly fresh until it reaches our customers.

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From left to right: Melanie's Father, Father's Cousin, her Poppa, her Great Grandfather and her Great Uncle at the sale yards

When I grew up on the family farm it was predominantly a sheep and beef farm which dabbled in deer briefly.  My father joined my grandfather in learning butchery which they did together for customers.  The orchard was more a small part of the farm where we packed sacks of fruit which I feel I ate more than we sold.

 

An interesting similarity to recent times emerges as I look back at history – Poppa was considered an "essential worker" during World War II, just as Paddock to Pantry and ourselves as staff became an Essential Business and workers during the COVID era. It's fascinating to draw connections between the past and the present, understanding how we've grown and adapted through the years. I often wish I could sit down with my grandfather, great grandfather and great, great grandfather now and learn more about their lives growing up and experiences as farmers and sellers of what they produce. Unfortunately, time has its limitations, and all I have are fragments of memories from my father.

 

Recollections of our farm growing up often fill my mind – from butchery with meat hanging, bacon curing, salting and brining of corned beef, and a chiller filled with an assortment of meat cuts. Customers would frequently visit the farm, bringing along their children who I played with while their parents participated in packing their meat to their specifications.

 

Amidst these cherished memories, there are also vivid recollections of the hard work that went on behind the scenes – hand-rearing countless calves, doing the lambing beat with my father, helping with shearing, hay making, feeding hay, moving cattle on horseback, enduring droughts and lots of mud – a life deeply ingrained with the rhythm of the farm.

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Melanie's Father at Calf Club 

I remember I loved the growing side of things and hand rearing animals for Calf Club or just a lounge full of orphaned lambs needing to be kept warm and hand fed.  Vegetable growing competitions for primary school have now led to growing large amounts of produce but mostly my largest passion of cut flowers for selling in-store at Paddock To Pantry and through my florist and gifting store The Wild Rose. 

 

Over a century has passed since my great grandparents arrived at the orchard in Springfield. Today, my husband and I continue this tradition in a very different way – as a physical and online grocery store (a much easier way to deliver hundreds of hen eggs a week) – and our son has now joined the family business. I find myself wondering what the world will be like in the next 100 years – how grocery shopping both in-store and online will have evolved, and what new and exciting food options people will be enjoying.  I’m pretty sure fruit, eggs and meat will still be a significant component – but only time will tell.

 

As we celebrate Father's Day this year, I am grateful for the legacy my great, great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather and father have left us in the world of producing and selling our everyday grocery items. Each generation has brought its unique touch to this business, and I am proud to carry forward the traditions while embracing innovation and the digital age. It is a privilege to reflect on our family's history and the journey of our farming ancestors, from horseback and scow deliveries to the convenience of online grocery ordering and delivery. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there, past and present, who have helped shape and nurture their family businesses and traditions!

As well as grocery delivery, Paddock To Pantry specialises in curating beautiful Gift Baskets to celebrate special occasions. Check out our range of Father's Day Gift Baskets for delivery nationwide here.

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