Barbara Harford-Silas likens her 5 hectare Hautere Plains property, with its own commercial kitchen, to a creative “jam central.” It’s here Barbara produces an eclectic range of delicious artisan preserves including vanilla strawberry jam, Moroccan peach chutney, fig and olive tapenade and preserved lemons — her ‘Te Horo Harvest.’
The small, certified organic farm has been home to the family for around four years, and like similar properties in the Te Horo and Otaki Gorge area, is surrounded by tall stands of totara and other natives. They make an ideal shelter for the established heritage orchard.
“When we arrived the orchard was already planted with apples and pears, as well as avocadoes, walnuts, macadamia trees and bananas,” explains Barbara. “In fact, we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it all!”
Although working full-time as a lecturer at Whitireia Polytechnic (Visual Arts and Design), Barbara began scouring cookery books for new ideas and recipes to utilise the crops on her doorstep. A long-time interest in permaculture principles (she had her own health food shop, selling bulk products rather than supplements), combined with an upbringing by a Cordon Bleu-trained mother, gave Barbara a useful stepping-board for the launch of ‘Te Horo Harvest.’
“I used to bake for the shop, using organic wholemeal flour – I’ve always had a focus on making delicious things.”
Two years ago, armed with a selection of chutneys, tapenades, marmalades, sugar-free jam and honey sourced from the farm’s hives, Barbara started selling her preserves at the local Te Horo Country Market.
“I always enjoy being at Te Horo market. It’s a friendly community hub, an ideal venue for our products.”
Interest in ‘Te Horo Harvest ’grew and so did the orchard, now also planted with apricots and peaches.
“I’ve always been interested in gardening and growing things, and we needed more seasonal variety as our range expanded.”
Barbara is quick to stress that she and husband, Lawrence Silas, are passionate about working and living sustainably.
“Any fruit in our spreads that we haven’t grown ourselves has been sourced only from New Zealand organic growers. But our goal is to keep the business as local as possible, to establish a sustainable, organic gourmet product.”
Currently, the boutique business is driven solely by her and Lawrence, and although Barbara has now retired from Whitireia, she believes the time is approaching when another pair of hands will be needed.
“At the moment it’s just the two of us. Lawrence does all the pruning and physical work, and I deliver the products as well as cooking and marketing. Pretty soon we’ll need an extra person, another helper.”
Barbara is constantly experimenting and researching, looking for new ideas and combinations.
“Most of my recipes are a response to what is in season, what I am growing, and any new edible plants, herbs, flowers that strike my fancy.”
‘Te Horo Harvest’ products can be found at all Commonsense Organic outlets, including a newly opened Auckland shop, Harringtons, Café Te Horo as well as Te Horo Country Market.