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Nam Tay (known as Tay to his classmates) and his family came to New Zealand as tourists in 1999 and liked it so much they decided to emigrate. Tay had worked in the food processing industry in Singapore and he pursued that type of work in New Zealand as well.

The family came to the South Island and Tay began growing vegetables as a hobby. He had always lived in a high rise apartment in Singapore so had never had an opportunity to have a garden. His background in food processing had always left him wondering where food came from and was fascinated by the biological world of plants: for instance, how fruit begins from a fertilised flower which then forms a fruit which houses a seed.

Tay decided he wanted to know more about growing so enrolled in Year One of the Organic Horticulture course. He enjoyed learning the basics of growing and plants and the background to organic farming systems. Soils, pests, climate – Tay liked all the building blocks that went into understanding the farming world. He was impressed at the depth of knowledge of the tutors and some of the other students.

In Year Two Tay grew garlic – researching the crop’s growing pattern and diseases and found his food science background helped him understand why soil-borne diseases are difficult to control and what to do about them. Year Two was also rewarding for the other subjects he learnt, the work experience weeks, field trips and the friends he made in the class. “Students come from all sorts of different backgrounds – they all contribute different things. It made it all very interesting.”

After Year Two he enrolled in the Stepping Stone programme and grew a bigger crop of garlic – he liked growing on a bigger scale and using machinery and also enjoyed the challenge of marketing as well as growing. He sold his crop at Piko Wholefoods and two farmers’ markets and really liked the interaction with customers and the rewarding feelback about his produce.

Since moving to New Zealand and doing the organic horticulture course Tay says he has become aware of environmental issues such as climate change which in Singapore he never paid attention to. Introducing his children (now aged 13 and 16) to growing veges has also been a rewarding aspect of doing the course at the Organic Training College. He grows many vegetables at home and says he will always grow lots of garlic because it is such an important part of their cuisine and he doesn’t want to eat any with chemicals on it! Tay says he is passionate about growing quality garlic for his family and other people.

Tay now has a part-time job gardening as well as other work. He feels very lucky to be living in New Zealand where there is an abundance of fresh and natural food.

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