Pam Mearns accepts that she doesn't fit the corporate image. Her fine food business, Due North, perhaps had too many lines and insufficiently aggressive marketing to be a world force, she said yesterday, but she was happy with what she was doing, and proud of what she was producing.
She is especially proud now that she has won a Farmers' Market NZ award with her Ninety Mile HOT mango and manuka sauce.
Due North, the latest manifestation of a cottage industry (originally Kitchen 14) that Mrs Mearns began at her home in Kaitaia some 15 years ago, was highly commended at the awards, with a range of products in 2012, but now one of her sauces has gone all the way.
This particular sauce was the result of a joint effort with her geologist/IT son Rory, she said, using local honey, limes and chillies. The mangos came from Australia, but using local ingredients was very important to her, the manufacturing of her 40-odd products at any given time depending on the availability of myriad fruit and vegetables.
There were some exceptions - she bought her apples in Whangarei and garlic in Marlborough, now that the Far North didn't produce the quantities she needed - but her aim had always been to make the most of the excellent ingredients to be found in the Far North.
The business was still a small one - Mrs Mearns has one part-time employee on her payroll - but quality had always been the priority over quantity.
Mrs Mearns, who grew up on a farm in South Africa, credits her mother's skill, practicality and resourcefulness for her love and knowledge of food and horticulture, a passion that she brought to New Zealand more than 25 years ago.