A well-established berry farm south of Christchurch, with a popular local café attached, is for sale.
Situated in the Tai Tapu area, nestled under the Port Hills 19 kilometres south of downtown Christchurch, the Raspberry Café and Otahuna Berries sits on 11 hectares, originally purchased by current owners Jane and Craig Scott and Jane’s parents in 1980, as Jane explains.
“I grew up in Hoon Hay Valley, which was semi-rural, though rapidly becoming built up, and my parents wanted to move away from suburban life. Dad loved raspberries and always wanted to grow them. His father, my grandfather, had been a market gardener. Craig and I returned from a few years overseas, and this seemed like an exciting family opportunity.
“One of several rehab farms set up after World War One, the property was previously a few paddocks used for cropping, mainly growing lucerne. When we bought the block there was nothing on it, not even a shed. The locals told us we were mad, and raspberries would never grow, though we were determined to prove them wrong.
“Early work consisted of installing irrigation systems, planting shelterbelts, levelling the land and then progressively planting. From the outset the blocks were planned for machine harvesting, hence wide spacings between the rows. We planted an American variety, a dessert raspberry, producing sweet and delicious fruit, focusing on flavour rather than volume, then began growing strawberries a few years later. Production reached a peak of 80 tonnes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Watties took the bulk of our crop. However, during the 1990s imports of bulk discounted fruit from China, Serbia and Chile convinced us it was better to downsize and concentrate solely on fresh fruit sales at the high end.”
They now grow approximately four hectares of raspberries and around two hectares of strawberries.
“Otahuna Berries’ fruit is only available through the shop. As the pool of local growers is steadily decreasing, our raspberries and strawberries are highly sought after and in heavy demand. When crops allow, we also offer pick your own, which is incredibly popular,” says Jane.
Opening the cafe in 2001 fulfilled a plan to add value to the business.
“We wanted more control over our fruit, needing to showcase it to the public more directly. We decided to open a café, never realising it would take on a life of its own.
“We bought a 50 year old cottage with Arts and Craft architectural features, and relocated it the approximately 15 kilometres to the berry farm. Craig and a couple of builders took the walls out and refurbished the cottage, and we opened the café with much trepidation, not sure whether anyone would come in.
“Initially we focused on coffee and scones, though because we are away from town, people want to sit in and have a meal. You have to listen to your customers, so we changed it up a little, and it works well. Now we pride ourselves on good, homemade, delicious and satisfying food in a picturesque setting, providing a comfortable, peaceful and appreciated dining experience. Our cakes are a particular specialty, attracting plenty of regular customers, and are a great talking point. We focus on seasonal produce, make all food on the premises, and our customers include locals, regulars, families, cyclists and walkers, among others,” says Jane.
Having raised three children, now adults, in a community that has changed significantly since they established the business, the Scotts have decided the time is right for them to hand it on. Ron Ferguson of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Lincoln is offering Otahuna Berries and the Raspberry Café for sale. He says it is a unique and thriving local business.
“What the Scotts have created from the ground up is an impressive business with two strong, though complementary components, plus the potential for a new owner to develop it further. Their loyal customer base, and the combination of the berries and the café offer diverse income streams. In addition to their customers, their staff have also been loyal to the Scotts for several years, making this is a sound going concern.
“Thirty years ago Tai Tapu was more rural, and although the locality retains its charm, the local community has grown in size considerably, and diversified away from farming, providing a new owner the potential to add further to the business,” he says.