Only dead fish swim with the current, says organic food advocate Adrian Barkla.
Rather than hiding in the specialties section, Barkla's Remuera New World supermarket's organic produce takes pride of place in the fresh food aisles - normalising the purchase of organic vegetables and fruit.

What's on the shelf can depend on seasonal supply but Barkla says at its peak organic produce can make up 50 per cent of fresh produce sales at his store.
It's not just fruit and vegetables.

Meat supplied by Harmony Farms accounts for 15 per cent of sales at the store.

Customers love it too, with some coming from all over Auckland just for the organic produce selection.


Barkla, who first embraced organic food three decades ago in his 20s, says other supermarkets will only introduce more organic produce when they realise customers are avoiding their local store to stock up elsewhere.

"That's the only way they will change because philosophically they don't get it.

"They think I'm a whacko and so what?"

Barkla says he was heavily influenced by reading about the health benefits of organic food at a time he admits his diet was fairly meat-heavy.

He has largely done away with the meat and completely cut out coffee, focusing instead on fresh organic produce with a side serve of yoga.

Even though his body has been "bashed around" by riding motocross Barkla says his choice of diet has helped keep him pain-free.

Barkla, who has owned the supermarket for 15 years, says he had always wanted to do organics but it wasn't until he got produce manager Abhi Patel on board several years ago that his dream became reality.

What Patel lacked in knowledge about organics he made up for with enthusiasm, attitude and a willingness to learn, says Barkla.


"He would say to me 'Adrian, I just got a whole pallet-load of organic vegetables and the smell is unbelievable' and he said the other stuff doesn't even smell.

"He just loved it. He just got it so much it was really just exciting."

The other ingredient to successfully offering organics was to knock down the price by going direct to the grower.

The impact was two-fold: fairer prices for both customers and growers.

"We can pay the growers more money and cut out the middleman. Then we can offer organics at a cheaper price to the customer and that gets the people who aren't sure about organics going 'well, it's not that much more expensive'."

This works to cut through the perception - which is correct, says Barkla - that organic produce is expensive.


Barkla is proud of putting more money into the pockets of growers.

Barkla says it's about treating others as you would want to be treated - or as he tells it in plain language: "not s***ting on them.

"We want to pay them a premium; we want to pay them weekly so they get that cashflow."
He doesn't tie growers to contracts, saying it's better to create a good, honest relationship that allows growers to leave if it's not working.

Barkla will also accept whatever quality, organic produce growers can provide without requiring them to commit to a continuous supply.

Where possible he will try to buy local - his courgettes, when in season, are grown in Titirangi and delivered to the shop in the grower's car - but always seeking to add more growers to his roster, that now numbers more than 30, in order to shore up supply.

"The ultimate goal would be New Zealand to be 100 per cent organic but at least by working with the farmers, getting up their confidence to grow whatever they can grow, accepting whatever they grow as long as it's relatively good quality, it gives them the confidence to grow more," he says.


"Basically I'm doing my bit; I'm not making any excuses, I'm out there wheeling and dealing and trying to make it happen."

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