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Snokist Carrots in Ohakune long time producers of quality vegetables

Pelleted carrot seedlings

Snokist Carrots in Ohakune long time producers of quality vegetables

The bright orange cylindrical to slightly tapered vegetable comes with a sweet, crisp flavour, and is an irreplaceable ingredient in salads, terrific for juicing and great to eat raw or roasted. Also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, the humble carrot was said to help your ability to see in the dark.

As Ricky Deadman, of Snokist Carrots in Ohakune, says, there’s no substitute for a carrot. “You can substitute potato with kumera, you can use any green vegetables for your greens, but you can’t replace a carrot.”

Snokist had humble beginnings. Established by Ricky's parents Sue and Gary Deadman in 1981 on a half hectare of land, they are now regular suppliers to Foodstuffs, My Food Bag, T&G and Fresh Direct.

Back in the 1980s, carrots were sold through an auction system, and anyone could have a go at starting a carrot business, says Ricky. Today the industry is quite different; with no contracts, the business relies on strong relationships and a great reputation.

"It’s quite a hard industry to get into now which is why we focus on producing the best quality,” Ricky explains.

Ricky is a fifth-generation market gardener, the Deadman family having lived in Ohakune since the 1920s. Today the family owns over 1,000 ha across three farms. Along with the carrot business, the operation includes sheep breeding with 6,000 ewes and a 400-strong beef herd. Swedes are cropped for stockfood.

Ricky, his wife Holly and his mum Sue manage the carrot and packhouse while Ricky’s brother Carl, partner Mel and father Gary run the farm. Cousins Lewis and Barry are closely involved in both operations and their sister Lindy is also learning the packhouse operation.

“It works well as we are not in each other’s space,” says Ricky. “And it’s fortunate that we all get on!  

“We farm and grow produce because we love the land,” he adds. “And we do everything possible to ensure the business is sustainable.”

Crop and pasture rotation has been a big part of creating a sustainable operation. To limit over-cropping, the Deadmans work on an eight year rotation: one year stock food, two years of carrots and five years in pasture.

“With a major focus on soil health, we’ve made big changes to our chemical and fertiliser programmes, as well as soil cultivation. We don’t work sloped areas and we take special care with wet soil. 

“With the carrots, we do regular soil testing, and we monitor fertiliser history, which benefits the farm too, but pasture rotation is the real benefit to the whole operation.”

On the carrot side, Kath Lee-Jones from Fruitfed Supplies is closely involved. “Kath is the local knowledge bank on market gardening. She worked with our parents and now us; I get advice from her literally every week.”

Kathryn Wells, from Terranova Seeds, is also an essential part of the team, providing consistent carrot seed supply and new varieties to enhance crop health and yields. They are currently trialling BioStart products to promote soil biology health, while using Yara products for foliar nutrition and Valagro Megafol to support plant health during challenging weather conditions.

On farm, PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative Nathaniel Turner works in with Carl.

“We get all the farm inputs from PGG Wrightson and Fruitfed Supplies,” Ricky continues. “They may be the only rural supplies store in town, but they are extremely good at what they do.” 

Snokist carrots are planted between September and November, staggered in 12 plantings. Harvesting starts in early February and continues until October. Both planting and harvesting is done by machine but a team of 20 man the packhouse, with grading an important part to the Snokist promise of quality. 

Ninety percent of the crop is sold to the local market, while waste is bought by dairy farmers in the Waikato for stock food. 

“We don’t have any ambition to get bigger, we just want to be really good at what we do,” concludes Ricky. “By continuing to focus on creating a sustainable operation, we see no reason why this business – the carrots and the farm - can’t continue indefinitely.”