The director of Northland's Fresh Food Collective and a member of the Northland Food Policy Council says the region's smaller food growers need to become more industrialised to meet a demand for local produce from the region's supermarkets and restaurants.
George Lavich, one of the directors of the Fresh Food Collective, a company which distributes fresh fruit and vegetables across Whangarei, said he struggles to get local food suppliers to meet high demands.
The collective established the Food Policy Council last year to localise food supply and connect growers and producers with those seeking fresh produce.
"The soil and climate in Northland is ideal for horticulture. And while we grow avocados, blueberries, apples, oranges and kiwifruit, everything else is grown at a smaller level."
Lavich, who also runs the Midweek Market with Lesley A'Court in Whangarei each Wednesday, said there is an increasing demand for locally grown, spray-free, organic produce.
"Growing is not industrial enough here. While we do have large-scale operations, most of the 140 growers in my database don't employ staff and only grow enough to sell at markets. If they grew more, they could supply the demand currently coming from Northland supermarkets and restaurants."
He said he knew of one restaurant chain owner who has decided to grow his own produce due to a lack of local suppliers.
"There is a growing frustration in Northland. If we can't get our food from Northland, we get our supplies from Pukekohe and frozen food from Asia."
One member of the Food Council, he said, was offering one acre of land at Pataua North to horticulture students who wished to learn more and increase their skills, while also creating an enterprise.
"The Food Council will help them form a collective, and set themselves up as long as they're keen to work and produce spray-free, organic produce. We already have three or four interested."
He said the Food Council was also working with Northland Inc to try to get growers on the same page, to promote the idea of a high produce output.
"The Government says that obesity is an issue in New Zealand. Well, we all know how important it is to eat healthy food. And how much better is it if we can teach our children how to grow fruit and vegetables?"
He said he applauded the schools that already had food education programmes in place. Lavich said the region could also invite growers to come from other regions to work the Northland soil for produce.