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QUINOA

The New Zealand Quinoa Company

In conversation with: Hamish and Kate Dunlop

Inland from Hawera and beyond nestling hills, for only two weeks of the year you’ll find sun-soaked fields of quinoa in flower at Hamish and Kate Dunlop’s humble rural Taranaki homestead. The New Zealand Quinoa Company is one of very few quinoa producers in Aotearoa, and we’re lucky enough to have them as part of our extended Ozone fam. Being able to see exactly where our product is coming from, knowing it’s being grown with such care and consideration, and having the opportunity to support hard working, humble and down-to-earth local suppliers makes us extremely proud. Completely in-tune with their surroundings, their appreciation and respect for the land is something that can’t be taught. Hamish and Kate have created something really special with their product, their farm and their family. They are change makers whose vision and hard work ultimately benefits everyone, and for that we are very grateful.

We talked to Hamish and Kate about their experience growing an atypical crop in New Zealand, and a little about their farming techniques and ideals:

What is your concept of “minimal intervention” and how do you practise it?

Our concept of minimal intervention is to interfere as little as possible with the growing of our quinoa crop. Once we have planted the seed, we do not touch the plants again until it is harvest time – it grows as it would in the wild.

Growing quinoa spray-free with little intervention sounds so easy, but are there any difficulties that come with that?

Of course, weeds are one of our biggest challenges. Through lots of trial and error, we have developed techniques to try and reduce weeds, such as changing when we plant, and trialling different methods of planting. We also use technology to remove foreign seeds after harvesting. But in the end, like all farming, a lot of it comes down to the weather.

What can others in the industry take from your values and begin to apply in their own practices?

We all have to take a look at what we are doing and the consequences of that on the environment. We need to use the resources available to us very carefully so that we are not compromising the enjoyment of the planet for future generations. We have to keep searching, evolving and striving to improve as reliable information becomes available.

Was there a particular thing that sparked your inspiration to start such a meaningful venture?

We had been reading and hearing about the growing world population and the environmental impacts of that. As farmers, and parents of young children, we care greatly about sustainability as well as providing nutritious, natural food for our children. Quinoa seemed a perfect fit for us – thanks to its impressive nutritional profile and its light footstep on the land.

Sustainability is a journey, where do you see that journey taking The New Zealand Quinoa Company?

We are really excited about what the future has in store in terms of sustainability, and think there is going to be huge innovation in this area. We are looking forward to compostable packaging becoming a financially viable option for small businesses. We are always looking at our farming methods and exploring more regenerative farming ideas. We are also looking at other crops that have similar credentials as quinoa in terms of being an important future food.

Have you found it easy to communicate with and educate your customers on the importance of your values?

We have found most of our customers share the same set of values, so it has been reasonably easy. They care about nutrition, how their food is grown, food miles and environmental and social issues. Locally grown quinoa is a fantastic food relative to these values, so it’s a perfect fit!

What does it mean for you to have your family grow up with an understanding of seed to plate?

In today’s processed world, for our kids to have a good understanding of where food comes from is very important. It connects them to nature, to the seasons, to teaching them patience and hard work. They understand what food should look like and about nutrition. It puts them in good stead to make future decisions about their diet and understand some of the effects of their choices.

How does the focus on sustainability with growing quinoa translate to your other farming activities?

Sustainability has always been a part of our sheep and beef farming as well. We have worked in collaboration with the Queen Elizabeth II Trust and the Taranaki Regional Council, fencing off and replanting areas of native bush as well as waterways on the farm. We have also planted marginal hill country and rotate crops for soil health. We try to have a careful and considered approach with whatever we are doing on the farm.