Cranberry farming business that grew from an international love story up for sale

11 May 2023
Joanne Naish
An Irish artist and a Kiwi farmer who created New Zealand’s only commercial cranberry farm are putting their business up for sale.

Kate Buckley and Kevin MacGregor fell in love in Ireland about 20 years ago.

“It’s the oldest story in the world, really – a holiday romance with a Kiwi farmer I met in Ireland,” Buckley said.

“After a few years of extended visits one of us had to move, so I put my paintbrush in my back pocket and emigrated to New Zealand in 2005.”

The couple moved to a farm in Taihape in the central North Island, which they sold in 2014 before moving to Haast and then Hokitika.

MacGregor is also a commercial fridge technician and first came across the cranberry farm in Hokitika while repairing its fridge.

Within a year the couple bought Cranberries Westland, and have been running it ever since with the help of about four part-time seasonal workers.

With an asking price of $770,000, the 4.5 hectare farm is now up for sale.

Buckley said the couple only ever had a five-year plan for the niche business.

“[Cranberries] are just quirky and nobody else was doing it. They bounce and float and do all these mad things that normal berries don’t do. They are also shockingly, ridiculously, good for you,” she said.

Cranberries Westland products

Some cranberry beds, which take about five years before they can be harvested, were already there but the couple planted more and expanded the product range.

They say cranberries are well suited for the West Coast because they “like a hell of a lot of water”. But even the coast isn’t wet enough, and their farm has extensive irrigation systems.

About 90% of the cranberries are turned into a range of compotes, jellies, relish and sauce in the farm’s commercial kitchen, while the other 10% are sold fresh.

The business is accredited and certified, and sells cranberries online and to supermarkets and speciality food stores nationwide.

Buckley said the couple will stay in Hokitika and continue their other jobs – MacGregor in fridges and Buckley with her art.

Back in Ireland, Buckley studied at the prestigious National College of Art and Design in Dublin.

She has exhibited widely and spent time as artist in residence at the Siamsa Tíre National Folk Theatre of Ireland, the ArtsLab Theatre at Trinity College Dublin, and at the Stamsund International Theatre Festival in Norway.

She has also received many commissions and has work in the collections of the Irish president, Guinness Ltd, the Wallace Arts Trust in New Zealand and many of the Irish regional council art collections.

For MacGregor, he loves the hunting and outdoors lifestyle, which the West Coast has in spades.

Buckley said she loves living by the sea. “Living here is the most extraordinary [thing]. The weather is familiar; the scenery feeds the soul and the people are great.

“We've achieved a lot of the things that we planned with it. And so it's that thing where it's now ready for someone to come in with some fresh energy.”

Originally published in The Press

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