From humble beginnings in 1906, to the flourishing celery growers we see today, Franklin Farm has always been a dedicated, family operated business.
After originally starting with a small block of land in Mt Roskill over a century ago, urban sprawl led to the decision to move to the small settlement of Waimauku. Over the years they managed to acquire neighbouring land, enabling Franklin Farm to expand to be a large operation, growing celery across 30 acres and producing 1,500 cases each week.
Now in the hands of the fifth generation, the newest owner, Luke Franklin, considers himself a celery grower since childhood.
“Last year my wife Jasmine and I bought the business and took over the day-to-day management,” says Luke.
“I’ve been involved right back from when I was a kid when I would work as often as I could to get a bit of extra pocket money.”
“Then I got more involved after high school, and I started full-time about 15 or 16 years ago.”
“It’s a lot different now we’re running the farm which takes a lot of time and energy.”
“We’re still supported by my parents Alan and Monique and grandparents Graham and Lucy who all remain hands-on in the business.”
The Franklin family are open to improving the way they grow and it is this openness that will ensure they are sustainable over the long-term. Prior to taking over the business, Luke and Jasmine spent a number of years investigating regenerative farming practices and developing strategies that focus on reducing inputs and improving soil health.
“We know it’s a good idea to look at other ways to grow to get ideas on how we can improve what we do on the farm,” says Luke.
“It’s not easy to get good information that’s specific to market gardening, so we just got on with it and started running trials.”
“It’s such a slow process because one trial can take nearly the whole year from setting it up, cropping, rotating and with trials you don’t get the perfect result the first time – it takes years.”
Luke also understands that making tough decisions is crucial to maintaining a sustainable and profitable growing operation.
“You can’t be sustainable if you’re not profitable,” says Luke. “Running the business has taken a huge amount of time and focus.”
“However, we see real value in regenerative growing practices, both from an environmental and cost saving perspective, so we’re determined to continue.”
While regenerative farming is part of their long-term plan, they have taken other steps on their journey and continue to look at all opportunities to improve their environmental performance.
“We’ve installed solar power to run our cool room, packhouse and workshop,” says Jasmine. “We also plant multi-species cover crops in the summer months to add diversity to the soil biology and structure.”
Franklin Farm and MG Marketing have always enjoyed a strong relationship. Luke’s father Alan served on the Board from 2010 to 2018 and the family have been grower-shareholders for more than 30 years.
“We work closely with the sales team and then Neil Bridgens from the procurement team provides us with a lot of additional information,” says Luke. “We have a very good relationship.”
“The MG team seem to enjoy what they’re doing and care for us and the sustainability of our business.”
Top Photo: Luke, Jasmine and young Saskia Franklin with MG representative Neil Bridgens
Main Photo: Four generations of the Franklin family