T&G head grower manager Greg Prendergast loves the great outdoors. But, like many of our people at T&G, he’s taken his love of the land one step further than most and made working as a grower a successful career for over 30 years.
Greg, a senior member of our covered crops team, manages five sites across the North Island that span 28 hectares, growing many different varieties of Beekist® tomatoes all year round.
His love of working on the land is largely thanks to growing up on a large berry farm in the Waikato with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries, as well as hectares of tomato vines.“I started picking my first strawberries for my parents at the tender age of six. I can clearly remember getting enough money to buy a choc dip ice cream, costing me about seven cents. And I still had money left over!” says Greg.
“What drew me to working as a grower was the challenge – growing the perfect fruit and vegetables is multi-faceted; there are so many elements to consider,
“You start with a tomato seed, sow it, graft it and plant it in the glasshouse. It grows for 12 months and produces in excess of 700 tomatoes. During that 12 months, you have a whole team of technicians assisting with the nutrition of the plant, growth, training and pruning before we even start on the rest of the supply chain – packaging, transport and sales. There is so much that goes into the humble tomatoes stacked on your supermarket shelves.”
Greg believes New Zealand has the best varieties of tomatoes in the world for a number of reasons, but first and foremost the classic Kiwi can-do attitude.
“Our Kiwi ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity – that Kiwi number 8 way of thinking – is so evident in the way we grow. We’re constantly on the hunt for smarter ways of doing things, and I think it’s this way of thinking that sees us create the best tasting, best quality tomatoes in the world,” he says.
“Over the years I have travelled the globe looking for new varieties of tomatoes and building relationships with breeders of exciting new varieties. You wouldn’t think many developments could happen with tomatoes, but a few years ago people would have laughed at the idea of a yellow tomato, so you never know what might be next,
“We spend an enormous amount of time talking to breeders about what we need as a variety in our New Zealand climate and also what works with Kiwi taste buds. We push our staff to always strive to be better, and we lead by example – we want to be able to say, hand on heart, that we are truly the world leader in horticulture.”
Greg says there is one special team who deserve their own mention for the part they play in creating his beloved Beekist® tomatoes.
“Our tomatoes wouldn’t be what they are without our humble, hardworking bumble bees – the namesake of our Beekist® tomatoes. Our bumble bees fly between the Beekist® tomato vines to pollinate them just the way nature intended – sustainably, and friendly on the environment.
“I’m really proud of the work I do producing the largest volume of tomatoes in New Zealand. Next time you’re tucking into a tomato – which, if it’s a Beekist® tomato, should be fresh and not watery, and have great taste and flavour – just think of all the people who contribute to handcrafting that tomato. There’s a lot of love that goes into those little guys!”