Cottage industry that grew

By Annette Lambly

When Trish Budd first saw the quaint but derelict cottage on the family's newly acquired Te Kauwhata dairy farm, she was smitten.

It was 1987 and Trish, husband Ian, and their five children had arrived in the Waikato to farm.

The original farmhouse had been superseded by a much more modern home but, despite its disrepair, the cottage's charm stirred Trish's romantic fantasy of an old cottage surrounded by herbs and flowers.

Between farm work and raising the family she collected and planted gardens with an extensive range of herbs.

"It was my passion. I incorporated them into everyday use as much as I could. I baked my own bread and, of course, added herbs." Her bread-baking skills later became a sideline business and she still offers bread-making classes in winter.

"Later, when my youngest went to school, I began making chutneys, lavender mustard, garlic sauce and jams using fruit from our orchard."

She even made hand creams, toiletries and perfumes.

"Apart from living the self-sufficiency dream, I made a little extra money by selling plants and fresh herbs when dairying prices weren't as good as we would have liked," said Trish.

It was the culinary side of the herbs that really attracted Trish.

The family renovated the cottage into a small commercial kitchen with a little shop for tea and scones, as well as a place to sell her products.

Trish attended a Be Your Own Boss course, had some labels made and business was looking promising.

It was around this time a customer, a former New Yorker, approached Trish and asked to take a selection of her products to New York to gauge if there was any interest.

"We thought it was a bit amusing and basically forgot all about it. Seven months later he faxed us to say customers from one of the delis - Dean and Deluca [previously voted Times' best New York Deli] had blind taste-tested our products and we had scooped the pool as a clear winner.

He encouraged us to go to a big New York gift fair, which we did, and for a couple of years we exported our products to America. At the same time we also got our line into Australia's David Jones stores.

"While it was exciting, it was a big learning curve and we learned a few harsh lessons."

In 1995, the family decided to sell the dairy farm, retaining five acres and the house and cottage. Business had outgrown the cottage kitchen so they relocated a villa to build a larger commercial kitchen and tea room.

Trish's mother Violet moved into the cottage, where she enjoyed her final years with family among ambient surroundings.

Business really took off. "We had just won the national Business and Professional Women Award and the publicity we got from that was fantastic," said Trish.

Staff, including right-hand woman Ruth and daughter Rowena, helped keep things ticking smoothly as more tourist buses made Herb Haven a regular stop.

"We were kept very busy for a time, but when road works outside the tea rooms dragged on for 16 months, interrupting traffic flow and causing noise and dust problems, we decided to close."

Trish initially thought of selling, but son Shaun, in between jobs, took on marketing the popular garlic sauce and youngest Paul, home from university, helped turn the villa into a bed and breakfast. Herb Haven had turned a new chapter.

Customers still come for tea and lavender scones and a meander though the gardens in summer.

However, life at Herb Haven is always changing and last month Trish decided to turn yet another page.

"Right now I am wanting a bit of time to write a book - it's to be based on our mad-cap experiences - a sort of melting pot of Fawlty Towers moments - and there's been plenty them - of being thrown in the deep end, of those we have met along the way, from customers, including lots of tourists, staff, woofers, to health inspectors and everything in between. Talk about a comedy."

Twenty-five years ago who would ever have thought the little turn-of-the-century cottage would have made such a dramatic change to the lives of the Budd family.

- Hamilton News

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