17 Nov 2023

Patience bears fruit as couple reopen cyclone-hit produce business in Hawke's Bay

10:21 am on 17 November 2023
Nicolaas and Diane Slagter

Nicolaas and Diane Slagter in their newly reopened store. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Crimp

The roadside sign is worse for wear and the shelves are still a little bare, but Springfield fruit and vege shop in rural Hastings is back in business.

For 15 years, Diane and Nicolaas Slagter's Pakowhai Road store has been a popular stop for residents.

Since Cyclone Gabrielle destroyed everything they had, the shed housing their shop had also become their home.

Springfield sign

The sign is a little the worse for wear. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Crimp

Next to the makeshift kitchen, the produce chiller also keeps their milk cold - and behind that is their bedroom, with their home next door gutted.

It will be a while yet before they can move back in. But they have at least slowly begun to resurrect their livelihood.

"We haven't figured out how to work the cash register yet," Diane Slagter said with a laugh.

"We'll get there."

Springfield fruit and vege business

Supplies are limited at present. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Crimp

Stock was limited, but it was a start, Nicolaas Slagter said.

"We've got cauli, cabbage and broccoli.

"Today I picked two cucumbers, and I picked some fresh peas, and nearly two packets of beans.

"And that's it. And eggs!"

With the beanstalks flowering and some consistent sunshine, he knew it was time to open the doors once more.

"This morning I picked two packets of beans, tomorrow it could be three or maybe even four, because with this heat they do grow."

Most of the $2 broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages were snapped up before lunchtime, but those seeking raspberries were out of luck.

Springfield fruit and vege business  - hit by cyclone Gabrielle in Hawkes Bay

Photo: RNZ / Lauren Crimp

The plants were completely wiped out in the floods, Nicolaas Slagter said, and they would be lucky to have any this summer.

They were what Springfield was most famous for.

"They've got a particular flavour, and you know what the flavour is because you have chickens running in them, and the chicken poo does something.

"Same with the cabbages and the caulis over there, just the flavour of it."

While flooding and silt ravaged the Slagters' home and livelihood, it had come in handy for growing.

"It's good stuff, you turn it into the ground. Rotary hoe it and plough it and look at it," he said.

Locals were supporting the Slagters by spreading the word that Springfield has opened.

Jade Peterson and her colleague nabbed a cabbage, a broccoli and a dozen eggs, after seeing a post on Facebook about the shop.

"We're both Hawke's Bay locals, and it's been a rough year, so seeing these stores popping back up again is really heartening," she said.

The owners were glad to be back.

The smile and wave from Nicolaas Slagter every time the door bell rang said it all.

"It's good, eh darlin'?" he said, smiling at his wife.

"It's a beginning, it's a beginning," she replied.

"You feel something's happening."

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