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Generations of growing experience
Bokay Flower Farms use integrated pest management to control unwanted insects
In 1980 Bernie Kay started his flower growing business. From an early age he knew he wanted to be involved in growing. The opportunity arose, in the late 1970’s, to purchase a small property in Drury, South Auckland. At the time it was extremely difficult to get a bank loan for such a growing operation, so Bernie started small and over the years grew the business to a company that now employs up to 15 full time staff. Bernie’s daughter, Kerry van Tiel, is now an integral part of the operation looking after all aspects of the business. Kerry’s son is also working in the business, one of his roles is property and machinery maintenance alongside learning the floriculture growing side of the business.
One of the smaller, original greenhouses remain on site. Bernie told me that the greenhouse had to be rebuilt due to receiving a ‘variation of treated timber’ approved in the 1980’s that failed to manage New Zealand’s wet and humid conditions. The greenhouse had to be rebuilt after a dispute resolution was sort with the then provider of the timber. Bernie said that was an incredibly stressful time and many growers were severely impacted by the poorly treated timber, it caused many to suffer financial hardship. After securing a resolution with the timber suppliers and fixing the greenhouse, Bernie and his late wife Pat then began expanding the business as the demand and sales for their products grew.
Image – Grower – Bernie Kay
The greenhouse area now covers 1.3 ha over three sites comprising of 8600 m2 of glasshouses and 5000 m2 of plastic houses. Currently the business is growing over 70 different types of large and mini gerberas. The home site has modern Apex greenhouse structures. There is a heating system and an environmental computer system used to control the venting and irrigation.
The gerberas are grown in a very clever guttering system that has the pots sitting in moulded channels off the ground and above the gutter system that collects irrigation runoff. The potting mix used to grow the plants is Bernie’s special blend of coir and pumice. Kerry told me that the plants root system is suited to be grown in a media that does not become to saturated.
Recently Bernie and Kerry have started using an increased number of predatory insects to help control pest insects, to reduce the need for chemical intervention. This has been a learning curve; the challenge is to create the best environment for their ‘good’ insects to thrive while maintaining the correct growth of the plants. Mites are one of the largest problems, the IPM programme is working but Kerry has noticed new pest insects like whitefly, which have not been seen in the crop for a number of years.
Seasonal workers are required during the warmer months. Kerry told me the company is currently short of 5 full time staff members for this time of the year. The situation is that some of the crops planted will not be picked on time and the iris crop in particular has some picks having to be abandoned. Kerry is hopeful backpackers will be able to help with the shortage of local staff but said instead of growing the business that just maintaining it is now a real issue.
The business is a family affair with three generations working in the business. It is so good to see a family business with intergenerational continuity – hopefully when the labour crisis is over this business can get back to being fully operational.
Cover image – Kerry van Teil
To learn more about Bokay Flower Farms contact Kerry:
Article written and compiled by Stefan Vogrincic
All Article’s checked and edited by Marie Vogrincic
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