The transformation of Matakana from a sleepy but beautiful backwater to a famously popular tourist destination is a well-known tale. Part of that story are the people who live and work there — artisans, organic growers and producers, winemakers, foodies and entrepreneurs — who have turned the name Matakana into a byword for good-quality, health-conscious, organic goods.
ORGANIC HERBS & SEEDLINGS
Tapping into the twin enthusiasms of growing your own food and eating organic produce, Organic Herbs & Seedlings is the creation of Scottish-born Mandy Purvis and husband Craig.
Newly arrived from Dundee in 2007, the couple bought five acres near Matakana after falling in love with the area. Keen to use their newly acquired acreage, Mandy took a series of permaculture courses, made friends with other growers and, in 2010, she and Craig set up their own business growing organic herbs and seedlings.
“Everything we sell, we grow on our land. Utilising a shadehouse rather than a glasshouse,” says Mandy, “means all plants are fully acclimatised when they go out to be sold.
“The majority of vegetable seedlings are salad greens and cruciferous vegetables, and we grow culinary and medicinal herbs, microgreens, edible flowers and companion plants.”
With Craig working full time elsewhere, Mandy employs a couple of people to help her out but has no plans to expand. “If I grew bigger, I might lose hold of the reins,” she says. “I want to remain focused on meeting my customers’ demands.”
You can find Organic Herbs & Seedlings outside New World Warkworth and at Matakana Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.
After 20 years’ working as a health practitioner, including stints in Australia, America and China, Kevin Glucina finally came home in 2000 and founded Matakana SuperFoods, with his wife Christina, six years ago.
“I started researching superfoods eight years ago having been into organic growing since the late ’70s,” says Kevin. Today in his ‘bunker’ in the beautiful Matakana countryside, Kevin still spends much of his time reviewing the scientific literature on these super-nutritious foods, before creating his formulations — SuperShakes, Supergreens Powders and even a super chocolate bar.
“We introduced into New Zealand many of the superfoods — like chia and coconut sugar — that are currently circulating,” says Kevin. “We bring in raw products from around the world — many from the Amazon — and formulate them into products that give people more options for children’s snacks, healthy shakes and even breakfasts: like our latest Acai bowl premix.
“It’s about integrating foods with very high nutritional content into everyday life. It’s a safer, healthier, tastier way of supplementing your diet.”
Kevin and his team have produced a soy sauce substitute called ‘coconut soy sauce’ with one-third of the sodium of other soy sauces and no GM soy, and Kevin is working currently on a healthier version of sweet chilli sauce.
Like so many businesses in the area, Matakana SuperFoods has taken off. Having outgrown the 600m² bunker, Kevin is about to build a new complex down the road. “I love living in this area. The word Matakana now evokes feelings of quality and desirability, and this rubs off onto our brand.”
You’ll find Matakana SuperFoods at New World Supermarkets, and health and whole food stores.
Some might struggle to see the connection between working as a high-school art teacher and making skincare products but Paula Friis, founder of Matakana Skincare, has no such problem. “It’s being creative that motivates me.”
And create she does. With product lines including soaps, sunblocks, skin cleansers and face moisturisers — made with essential oils and active botanicals — Paula has at least 20 products on her list at the moment. “I just couldn’t stop creating things. I’ve actually had to cut back a lot.”
After leaving teaching and buying a friend’s soap-making business, Paula spent two or three years obsessively researching, understanding and refining her expanding product line, all the while taking her soaps and creams to market.
“I have a philosophy that I won’t sell in shops as I want everything to be fresh. Oils go off no matter what you do to them so I pretty much make to order.” Overheads are low, ergo prices are low too.
“I make everything in my basement. For example to make a face cream all you need is heat, water, beautiful oils and emulsifier — it’s a bit like making aioli really.”
‘Effective, ethical and exquisite’ reads the website headline. Ethical how? “I never test on animals. I make all my decisions based on how I would like a product to be. There are no strict regulations in New Zealand around cosmetics so people have to trust you and believe you when you say what is in a product.”
With an ‘even life balance’ now, Paula has decided not to try to take over the world. “I am happier creating fresh products and interacting with people than competing and expanding.”
Words: Suzy Fraser