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Diplomat to farmer: Blumsky's transition

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/06/2017 Karen Sweeney

Sick of eating coleslaw because lettuce was too expensive, Mark Blumsky hatched a plan on the golf course to grow his own.

Eight years later, the former mayor, MP and diplomat says his transition from politician to Niuean farmer has been good for the soul.

It was never intended to be anything more than a means to provide his restaurant with cheap salad, but now his little local produce company, Niue Fresh, has expanded into herbs and Mr Blumsky is eying Kiwi kitchens.

On a tour of his farm, Mr Blumsky showed off row after row of lettuce, capsicum, pumpkins taking over the ground and rockmelon of various sizes, all connected to a hydroponic set-up.

Tomatoes went off the menu last year because of their temperamental nature, but Mr Blumsky has agreed to give some new seeds a second chance.

Those products, grown in the homemade hydroponic set-up, stock local restaurants and supermarket shelves.

But it's the new section down the back where aromatic herbs offer an exciting business opportunity for the green thumb Niuean convert.

Mr Blumsky and his business partner are in discussions with the Ministry for Primary Industries to supply herbs to New Zealand restaurants.

Chefs Martin Bosley and Ray McVinnie can't wait for the first delivery, he says.

"We've had approvals from MPI to start the paperwork process now - Niue is the only country that they're negotiating with and having this discussion with for the next year," he said.

The process isn't a quick one but he hoped to have a word with Prime Minister Bill English during his visit to Niue to fast track the deal.

He's been told it could take anywhere from three to 10 months to secure.

"I can understand you don't want stuff going into New Zealand that can decimate every farm," he said.

"I can understand why there's protections, but it takes a long time and if we can somehow fast track it so we can get into New Zealand quicker it would be a big bonus," he said.

At the same time the business partners are looking into an application to the Green Climate Fund to safeguard their business.

Solar energy would end the need for unreliable diesel generators while sturdier greenhouses and an investigation of underground facilities are also being considered.

They're looking at $2-3 million for their farm and another on the island.

It was never intended to have the business get so big, or to go international.

"It was just to have lettuce for my restaurant, seriously, that's the only reason we started it," he said.

"We've got a family restaurant and I got sick and tired of coleslaw."

So no matter how big they might get, Mr Blumsky's local customers will always be his priority.

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